In the fall of 2008, a CD of Jeff Beck’s week-long residency at Ronnie Scott’s in London, was released with the publicity promising a future DVD of the performance. Well, now Jeff Beck: Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s is finally here and man, was it worth the wait!
The DVD not only includes bonus features like excellent interviews with Beck (something of a rarity) and his band, but it also significantly expands the performances to include things that were not available on the CD—most notably a jam with fellow former Yardbird, Eric Clapton. These additional songs, combined with the interviews, push the running time to nearly three hours, which makes it a must for any Jeff Beck fan, or indeed, any fan of live music.
Obviously, the audio is superb, even noticeably improved over what was on the CD, and the video is perfect. The view is better here than it could have possibly been for the audience at the time, simply because audience members had to contend with candle light at the tables. Not only that, but the close ups on individual players and instruments are unparalleled by any concert film in recent memory.
Naturally, most of this detailed camera work is focused on Beck, his finger work, his effortless technical wizardry and his whammy bar. However, plenty of attention is paid to the trio of talented musicians behind him, as well. Drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and keyboardist Jason Rebello are all kinds of impressive when it’s their turn in the spotlight, but it’s 22-year-old bassist Tal Wilkenfeld who will really blow you away. She may look all of 12, but make no mistake, this is one funky woman! It’s especially fun to watch the interplay between her and Beck, as she is clearly over the moon to be onstage with him and he looks every inch like a proud parent presenting a prodigy.
I’ll wager not many people have ever seen Jeff Beck smile so obviously or so much when performing, and in fact the whole band is grinning from ear to ear throughout. It’s a pleasure to see how much they are enjoying themselves, and it only adds to the heightened musical atmosphere.
The crowd, which includes several celebrity faces—Robert Plant can be seen openly digging it during a number of songs—is quite pleased, too. In fact, some are so clearly pleased as to be completely transfixed. And who can blame them? In addition to jaw-dropping performances of “Beck’s Bolero”, “Behind the Veil”, “Blast from the East”, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat/Brush with the Blues”, a truly thunderous “Big Block” and a mesmerizing cover of “A Day in the Life”, Beck brings some very special guests out to share his spotlight.
First up, Joss Stone steps in for a lovely version of “People Get Ready”. Later, Imogen Heap steals that spotlight on her own “Blanket”. Beck seems pleased as punch to have her, and she returns near the end of the set to accompany the band on the blues standard “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”. Still, it’s when the night’s biggest guest steps onstage that the gravity of the evening is beyond refute.
Introducing him as “someone who knows his way around a Stratocaster”, Beck welcomes Eric Clapton to the stage with evident excitement and they launch into the Muddy Waters/Willie Dixon classic “Little Brown Bird” with Clapton on vocals. It’s electrifying! Clapton doesn’t often appear in situations like this anymore, so it’s a rare treat to see and hear him trading licks with Beck Dixon’s “You Need Love”. This is more than two legends wailing the blues, it’s two friends having a hell of a high time, and bringing down the house to boot!
After watching, it’s not hard to reach the conclusion that Jeff Beck: Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s is one of the most impressive concert DVDs to ever come into existence. It far exceeds expectations on all fronts—sound, picture, performance, track lists, guests and extras. If there is a complaint to be voiced, it’s that the DVD version fails to feature the set Beck played with the Big Town Playboys, which is included on the Blu-ray release. But that’s a minor failing, and if anything, Jeff Beck: Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s will provide a reason to finally make the switch.