Have you long been waiting for the 'definitive' live Jeff Beck album? Well folks, the wait is over with the release of Performing This Week...Live at Ronnie Scott's, a new 16 track live set recorded in 2007 from Ronnie Scott's club in London. Showing that, despite his advancing age, the legendary guitarist can still mop up the floor with any other axe-slinger on the planet, this live set scorches from start to finish, as Beck rips into tunes from throughout his storied history.
With a band that includes veteran drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, keyboard player Jason Rebello, and bassist Tai Wilkenfeld, Beck and Co. go for the juggular and never let go from note 1 of "Beck's Bolero", a grand rendition of this classic tune if ever there was one, Jeff's yearning guitar melodies soaring through the heavens as he utilizes his whammy bar & slide to the fullest effect. Then, without warning, the group briefly lurches into The Mahavishnu Orchestra ripper "Eternity's Breath", which then segues into Billy Cobham's "Stratus", Beck taking place of the late Tommy Bolin, giving this fusion classic a dose of his maniacal brilliance, whammy bar working overtime. Turns out Tommy was not the only guitar legend that could engage in guitar warfare during this piece! Next up is a brilliant take on Stevie Wonder's "Cause We've Ended as Lovers", one that will certainly bring a tear to your eye, and if you've long loved Beck's interpretation of this tune on his classic studio album Blow By Blow, wait till you hear this live rendition. Not only is Beck's guitarwork heart wrenching, but Wilkenfeld turns in a wonderful bass solo here as well. Stunning.
"Behind the Veil", the reggae-tinged rocker from Guitar Shop, is given fine treatment here, Jeff's guitar full of menace with Rebello's organ vamps playfully floating underneath, and the funky fusion number "You Never Know" is just flat out fun, Beck's wah-wah licks doing battle with Rebello's spacey synths on this excellent Jan Hammer penned classic from the There and Back album. All sorts of strangled guitar noise, but in a melodic, emotional sense, come from Beck's Stratocaster on "Nadia", and "Blast From the East" is the band at their most playful, full of mean licks and funky grooves. One of my personal favorite Beck tunes is up next, the engaging, pumped up "Led Boots" from Wired, complete with beefy rhythms (Colaiuta & Wilkenfeld working overtime) and scalding guitar lines, while the guitarist gets all sorts of introspective on the charming "Angel (Footsteps)". The band goes back to the Blow By Blow album for the furious "Scatterbrain", dazzling guitar, bass, and keyboard riffs doing battle with each other while Colaiuta bashes with reckless abandon. A perfect marriage of jazz-fusion and heavy rock.
Who can resist the Charles Mingus classic "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", especially when Jeff Beck plays it? Here, this elequent number is paired with "Brush With the Blues", and it features plenty of searing guitar solos, tasty keys, and melodic bass grooves. It's back to rumbling fusion with "Space Boogie", Colaiuta's drums in high gear while Beck let's his guitar do the talking, which he then takes to another level on the barnstormer "Big Block", his riffs and solos simply gargantuan. Things settle down for a cover version of "A Day In the Life" by The Beatles, and it's a doozy, Beck's guitar covering the vocal lines from Lennon superbly, whammy bar being used to its fullest. This amazing set closes out with the soul-searching "Where Were You", Beck's guitar melodies again yearning and seeming to reach out to the heavens. Just breathtaking.
Hard to come up with words to fully describe the passion, the intensity, the beauty, and sheer aggression that Jeff Beck puts forth here. Though he might not have been the most prolific touring or recording artist throughout his career, and I'll bet he doesn't spend hours practicing his instrument each day, you'd be hard pressed to tell after listening to this mind-blowing display of virtuosity here. It's the live album of his career, and possibly the live album of the year, period.
1. Beck's Bolero
2. Eternity's Breath
4. Cause We've Ended As Lovers
5. Behind The Veil
6. You Never Know
8. Blast From The East
9. Led Boots
10. Angels (Footsteps)
12. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues
13. Space Boogie
14. Big Block
15. A Day In The Life
16. Where Were You