Live At The Hollywood Bowl
Jeff Beck celebrated 50 years as a performing artist with a run of shows at the Hollywood Bowl, guest artists, material from across his career – including a dig back to The Yardbirds, the various versions of The Jeff Beck Group, his seventies fusion, right up to the present day. It’s here for all now in the Dinosaur-du-Jour format of DVD/Blu-Ray and double CD. File it alongside your ‘new’ concert recordings from The Rolling Stones and Dave Gilmour…
I love Jeff Beck. Love him. His playing is too good. But it’s taken me until this very release to click – or to admit – that he’s one talented player that is almost entirely without taste. If he arrives at something good it’s by fluke as much as anything.
Live At The Hollywood Bowl is a little of column A and a lot of column B – I’d be sticking with the Ronnie Scott’s album as a showcase.
That said, the winning collaboration here is the reconnection of Beck with Jann Hammer. Their fusion pieces sound as good (and as dated, frankly) as they ever did. They sit outside time now – at any rate – and suggest that an immediate new collaboration would get results. That’s not Beck’s style though – of course. He’d probably rather do anything else. Though the sound here is of someone that enjoyed himself revisiting strange, wonderful gems like Star Cycle and Blue Wind and of course the things that have never been too far from Beck’s live set, such as Freeway Jam.
The vocal turns are solid – for the most part. Beth Hart is tremendous on a version of I’d Rather Go Blind, Rosie Bones nails the material she delivered so well on Beck’s studio album oddity from last year, Loud Hailer.
He’s barmy-bonkers-mad. I’m convinced of that. But holy shit can he play. We hear that so well in tributes to Jimi Hendrix (Little Wing) and Prince (Purple Rain) but it’s best when Beck is putting out his own voice as the loud hailer and tribute to his own sound. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers is forever magical and if the metal-lite of things like Big Block still seems absurd on at least one level you can’t fault the actual playing, nor Beck’s commitment to it.
It’s weird that a celebration of 50 years of playing only amounts to this though. A better showcase would be a double album of Beck’s best songs and collaborations – hearing his own studio work mingling with tracks he’s cut with and for Tina Turner and Roger Waters, even Jon Bon Jovi. Having all of that, alongside the fusion and Yardbirds, the soundtrack and rockabilly pastiches, that would be the real story. Again, I should imagine Beck himself might cringe.
So to have him still delivering, still rocking out, well that’s all fans could hope for. He’s never – by his own admission – been cool. That’s probably one of the very coolest things about him right now if not then.