CD Review: Jeff Beck – Performing This Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's – Special Edition

CD Review: Jeff Beck  Performing This Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's Special Edition
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Jeff Beck - Performing This Week ...
Live at Ronnie Scott's 2015
It's 2007, and Jeff Beck has taken over London's Ronnie Scott's club, doing a much-ballyhooed series of shows there that called many of the guitar god's most fervent acolytes to worship. If anybody deserves his own church, it's Beck, whose long, remarkable career has seen the virtuoso performer constantly push the envelope and explore a wide variety of genres, while also expanding the limitless possibilities of his chosen instrument.

On the two-CD concert album Performing The Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's – Special Edition, out via Eagle Rock Entertainment, Beck delivers a series of powerful musical sermons before packed houses, as this set compiles all of the live tracks from those shows for the first time on LP and CD – other CD and DVD versions were released in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

Were it not for the singing of Joss Stone sucking the very soul out of "People Get Ready" by over emoting to such ridiculous extremes, disc two would have been far more enjoyable, highlighted by a smoky reading of "Blanket," with siren Imogen Heap lending her seductive vocals to a song ensconced in midnight hour ambiance, and "Little Brown Bird," where Beck and Eric Clapton cook up a simmering, slow-cooked blues meal that seems to drip from their chins. Heap rejoins Beck for a scorching rendition of "Rollin' and Tumblin'" – that's also viciously jarring in parts – prior to a feverish seven-song rockabilly workout with the Big Town Playboys, marked by spirited, swaggering rumbles "Race With The Devil" and "Crazy Legs," and Stone's train wreck is all but forgotten.

More serious business is attended to on disc one, with inspiring forays into jazz fusion, space-age funk and snarling blues-rock on a full and diverse instrumental menu. The manic and propulsive "Scatterbrain" becomes a bi-polar episode that athletically ping-pongs all over the place until order is restored, while "Eternity's Breath," "Stratus" and "Big Block" turn heavy and stormy, stopping only to allow Beck plenty of room to roam in expansive clearings – and roam he does, his unpredictable solos encompassing an unheard of range of emotions and techniques. Fluent in seemingly every possible musical language, Beck wrings big drops of pathos out of a poignant "Cause We've Ended as Lovers," agonizing over every blue note, and in his elegant re-imagining of The Beatles' "Day in the Life" develops it into something more meditative and fluid.

And what Jeff Beck live outing would be complete without the exotic and mysterious "Beck's Bolero," a sweeping epic with rich, dark tones that surges and flows with bold artistry in this close environment. Backed by players who employ preternatural instincts to interpret these instrumental pieces with palpable freshness and vitality and furious drumming, Beck is free to be playful and coy, assertive and aggressive, and gently lyrical when soloing or sketching out melodies. Performing This Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's succeeds both as a survey of Beck's life's work and a testament to his supernatural talent.
– Peter Lindblad

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