DVD review: JEFF BECK – Live In Tokyo

Jeff Beck - Live in Tokyo

Eagle Rock [Release date: 24.11.14]

When I reviewed Jeff Beck’s gig in Birmingham in May this year – only a month or so after this Tokyo gig – the main criticism was the lack of audience interaction.  Beck didn’t engage the audience with carefully chosen banter about his illustrious career.  This was also the first tour with his current band and I wasn’t convinced that it matched previous outings.

Well, Beck is hardly going to get talkative to a Tokyo audience and to be honest the lack of chat isn’t such an issue with a recording.  But, musically, this set doesn’t really change my previous perceptions.  It may be more to do with the choice of material than the players.  You can’t fault drummer Jonathan Joseph although bassist Rhonda Smith seems pedestrian on her showcase ‘You Know You Know’ whilst Nicolas Meier is versatile if rather limp.  As for Jeff,  he does make things look very easy and let’s cut some slack for a still-spritely looking septuagenarian.

But, again, it is only with the encore -  the superb ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers’ – that you realise there is an acute lack of stirring melody in a lot of this fusion repertoire and it is somewhat telling that this song dates from the mid-seventies, and under the careful tutelage of George Martin.   To me Beck frequently sacrifices a good tune for the incessant flourishes of whammy bar harmonics.  It all gets rather tiresome, just as it did in real time.

In truth, for my ears, there ain’t enough rock in this fusion and even ‘The Pump’ and ‘Led Boots’ struggle against the onslaught of jazzy jeff jams.

Beck’s previous DVD was a more intimate affair at Ronnie Scotts – and to my mind all the better for the intimacy.  The real problem here is the lack of a proper keyboard foil and a killer track like ‘Hammerhead’ doesn’t match its album version.  And, without a flamboyant sparring partner (historically a Jan Hammer or a Jason Rebello) Beck doesn’t operate at maximum  throttle.

Bonus features include Jeff and the band talking us through the setlist.

Beck fans will lap this up.  ***

Review by David Randall

David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.

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