Video of the Month – Jeff Beck Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Jeff Beck

Every month on our Netflix account, I select one rock and roll DVD, be it a concert film, a documentary, or a movie surrounding rock and roll. I am still blown away by this month’s choice and I can’t believe it has been out this long without me noticing. Gotta love Netflix! This month’s selection of the month is Jeff Beck Live at Ronnie Scott’s.

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club opened in London in 1959. When Jeff Back was asked to play it in the fall of 2007, the guitar virtuoso wasn’t too sure this was the right venue for his rock and roll sound. Beck was concerned over how his show, usually geared towards big arenas, would go over in the few hundred seat jazz club. Exceptionally filmed over the course of a five night run, Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott’s dispels all doubt on whether this was a proper venue for Beck and his band.

Not only do you get an up close and personal look at Jeff Beck’s fretwork, this hour and a half long DVD is a strong argument as to why Jeff Beck is considered the world’s greatest guitarist. Backed by an incredible power house band that features the energetic drumming of Vinny Colaiuta, the bass playing of wunderkind Tal Wilkenfeld, and the keys of Jason Rebello, Beck comes out firing with the classic “Beck’s Bolero.” His technique of using the whammy bar to help achieve his unique sound is something to witness. He finesses the strings with such command that I find myself in a complete trance watching him work his magic. There is no other guitar player out there that can bounce between styles with such ease and proficiency like Beck. He’s got the slow blues things down, the jazz free form interplay covered, the hard rocking number, even a reggae paced tune that comes off sounding like he’s been playing this kind of stuff for years.

Once Beck settles in, his energy becomes contagious on stage. Colaiuta completely pounds the hell out of the drums to the point where he almost steals the show. Even bass player Wilfenfeld does her thing to keep Beck on his toes with her on-point playing that creates a solid synergy of bass and drums. As the show progresses, Beck seems to feed off the rhythm section’s energy and starts to push himself more and more. He’s just so damn good that I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and calling the fiancé into the living room over and over to catch an earful of the sound he was getting out of his guitar.

The show also features a few guest vocals by Imogen Heap and Joss Stone. Both of these singers are more than accomplished but didn’t seem to take the show to any higher points than what Beck was achieving with his guitar work. Once their numbers were over and Beck got back to the instrumental pieces, the head shaking and jaw dropping started again for me. As the show started to come to its conclusion, Beck brought out the last of the special guests, this one a little more famous and definitely a little more accomplished and able to bring the crowd to its feet. When Eric Clapton hit the stage, you could see how excited Beck was to have his old guitar slinger buddy standing in next to him. The two blues numbers they did ripped, as the legends got a chance to exchange sweet licks.

Also featured on the DVD is an interview with Beck where he reveals his hesitation over doing such an intimate venue and the challenges he and the band faced to get the sound to work in the famous jazz club. I was a little surprised by Beck’s lack of confidence in approaching this gig. To me, Jeff Beck could play a one string, broken in half, fiberglass guitar and still make that thing sing. The interview just goes to strengthen the dept of Beck as an all around musician and how much getting the sound right means to him. There are also a few good moments with the other members of the band talking about the experience of playing with Jeff Beck and being a part of these five magical nights that made up the show at Ronnie Scott’s.

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