英国结他鬼才Jeff Beck，不经不觉64岁了。暂时来说，他在结他史上写下最经典的一章，可算是六十年代跟Eric Clapton、Jimmy Page一同在The Yardbirds里「三支结他同台」的岁月。时至现在，「Slow Hand」Eric Clapton不论在流行曲/蓝调界中亦见有成就，Jimmy Page在Led Zeppelin同样於摇滚界中变成殿堂级人马。那么Jeff Beck呢？他真的怀才不遇？还是他太过坚持？
不过，若然大家能细听Jeff Beck这张最新推出的现场录音专辑，也许就会明白这位结他天才真正在想甚么。曲目上，的确没有甚么新鲜感可言，来来去去也是〈Where Were You〉、〈Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers〉、〈Goodbye Pork Pie Hat〉这几首近乎是饮歌。但这次演出的组合为Vinnie Colaiuta（鼓）、Jason Rebello（键琴）及天才少女Tal Wilkenfeld（低音结他），感觉上就跟上一张现场专辑《Live At BB King Blues Club》截然不同，证实了Jeff Beck真的没有强行要摆出一种甚么姿态/味道，而是他能够随著环境而调节他的musical touch的。
弹奏上，Jeff Beck的功力已然无可挑剔，而自从他弃用结他pick以后，你更能感受到他对乐器的操控及触感、情感之炉火纯青：配合震臂的vibrato拉音、手指跟结他线所制造出的percussive harmonics等等，带出一点不寻常的violin tone。所以，你说他真的没有风格？其实是有的。另外，Jeff Beck教人最欣赏的地方，是他绝对要所有同台乐手一起跟他分享这个音乐空间；他可以把〈Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers〉最催泪的地方让了给Tal Wilkenfeld作低音结他独奏、可以让别人分担The Beatles名作〈A Day In The Life〉内的一呼一应，而你听这张专辑，简直是一个绝对融和的音乐体验，不如一般高技巧派结他手，只在肆意去卖弄技术，毫无音乐鉴听感可言。
看著这张唱片的封面，也让人有点感慨，人家可以用「Live At Ronnie Scott’s」、「Live At Blue Note NY」、「Live At Royal Albert Hall」……我们呢？香港呢？Live At大会堂演奏厅？香港红磡体育馆？葵青剧院？好像没有很好的气势，也不像人家极希望到来演出的地方。殖民地身份前后，这片土地不断经历著「借来」的矛盾，究竟，何时才能有真正属於我们的代表作？
It's becoming increasingly common to release concert performances concurrently in both CD and DVD format—satisfying for those who want to experience the visuals but also appealing to fans who want the audio to be available more readily outside the confines of their living room. Yet it's often superfluous. Watching the performance once is worthwhile, but additional viewings rarely reveal a whole lot more. The audio is almost always preferable, because at the end of the day, the music's the thing. A notable exception is Eagle Vision's DVD release of guitar legend Jeff Beck's Performing This Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's (Eagle Records, 2008). The music still is the thing, but with additional tracks and bonus interviews with Beck and his group—keyboardist Jason Rebello, young bass phenom Tal Wilkenfeld and fusion powerhouse drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—there's more than enough to differentiate and justify the DVD release.
But even if the DVD were nothing but an exact replication of the CD, as Eagle Entertainment has done previously with CD/DVD releases of Yes: Live at Montreux 2003 (Eagle Records, 2003) and Jethro Tull: Live at Montreux 2003 (Eagle Vision, 2007), a DVD version of Performing This Week makes great sense because, while anyone with an ear can say that nobody sounds like Jeff Beck, this is the first time that it's been possible to watch him in performance, for an entire show, and see exactly why—and, more importantly, how—he's created such a unique sound for over 40 years.
Watching Beck perform is like viewing a force of nature. He's one of the few electric rock/fusion guitarists who plays with his fingers, and it's the very physicality of flesh on string that makes his guitar sing—as does his uncommon use of the whammy bar on his Stratocaster. While there's precious little posing, Beck's an imposing and charismatic presence on stage, and he appears to be having the time of his life here, with performances culled from a one-week run at London's legendary Ronnie Scott's. For a guitarist with the reputation of being a recluse and, at times, brooding man who is happy only while tinkering with his classic car collection while putting out albums on a relatively infrequent basis, with as many as five years passing between releases, here he's all smiles.
He's also clearly digging his band. Wilkenfeld—who is only in her early 20s but looks to be in her mid-teens—is a remarkable find, with her own debut, Transformation (Self Produced, 2007) more than enough evidence that she's a bassist to watch. She delivers an early career-defining solo on Beck's enduring take of Stevie Wonder's ballad, "Cause We've Ended as Lovers." Hearing it on the CD might seem more than enough, but watching Beck's reaction to it on the DVD is worth the price of admission. Equally, Rebello's solo on a frighteningly high-velocity take of the already up-tempo "Scatterbrain"—from Beck's classic first entry into the fusion arena, Blow by Blow (Epic, 1976)—causes the veteran musican to look as though he not only can't believe his ears but that he also can't believe his good fortune to be onstage with these three outstanding players. Colaiuta drives the entire set with a perfect combination of visceral groove and impressive technical virtuosity. Lately he's been getting gigs that prove his chops as a lighter jazz player, but the fact remains that he's best in contexts like this, where he can push the limits and play with unbridled power.
But, at the end of the day, it's Beck who's the star of the show, and watching his unorthodox technique on guitar, it becomes much easier to understand why he's able to lend his instrument such a vocal-like quality—singing, at times, with a pristine beauty, elsewhere growling and screaming with harsh aggression. And while he's rarely thought of as a virtuosic player in the realm of fusion shredders like John McLaughlin or Scott Henderson—and, truthfully, his harmonic knowledge isn't quite as sophisticated—his performance here will surprise those who view him as a rock guitarist with jazz aspirations. Sure, he still leans more closely to the jazz side of the jazz-rock equation, but there are some unexpected surprises here that suggest he's more broad-scoped than purists might think. Few guitarists possess his right hand control, and watching Beck pull everything out of his musical bag—from right hand tapping and chiming harmonics to bends so broad as to seem impossible, and much more—will be a revelation, not just for guitarists who've always wondered how he does it, but for anyone who wants to see just how much two hands, a guitar and an amp can do. Yes, Beck uses effects, but his palette is often far fuller without them.
There are an additional five tracks that don't appear on the CD and, in some respects, rightfully so. Featuring guest appearances by singers Josh Stone and Imogene Heap, as well as another guitar icon, Eric Clapton, excluding them from the CD (admittedly, for time's sake as well), makes that release a purer Beck experience, and certainly one the live album fans have been waiting to hear for decades. At the same time, the bonus performances add to the excitement of the show, especially Stone's take on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready," originally sung by Rod Stewart in a reunion of sorts on Beck's Flash (Epic, 1985). Stone's unassuming honesty and strong interpretive skills surpass Flash's studio take, and the song provides a brief respite before the juggernaut of "Scatterbrain." Heap plays it straight on the balladic "Blanket" but lets loose a bit on a grungy take of Muddy Waters' classic "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" with Beck's distorted wah wah almost as gut-wrenching as the near-vomitous "You Shook Me," from Beck's 1968 debut as a leader, Truth (Epic).
Clapton's two guest tracks are more blues-centric, with "Little Brown Bird" giving Beck one of a number of opportunities to demonstrate his equally vocal-like ability with a slide. "You Need Love" is a vamp-based jam that features Beck beautifully synched with Clapton's vocals, and a chance for the two to take solos that demonstrate why they emerged as two parts of a remarkable trifecta (Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page being the third) that changed the course of rock music in the late '60s.
The unexpected success of Performing This Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's has helped revive a career that's not exactly needed it, because Beck has always seemed to return to active playing and touring on his own schedule. Still, this is undeniably the best touring group he's ever had, surpassing even his early group with Rod Stewart. The music may be fantastic of itself, but being able to watch Beck in action for nearly two hours is an opportunity not to be missed—not just for fans, but for those who may wonder why Beck's reputation is what it is. Performing This Week ... Live at Ronnie Scott's may well be the most exciting and revelational DVD release of 2009.
01. Beck's Bolero
02. Eternity's Breath
04. Cause We've Ended As Lovers
05. Behind The Veil
06. You Never Know
08. Blast From The East
09. Led Boots
10. Angel (Footsteps)
11. People Get Ready - with JOSS STONE
13. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues
14. Space Boogie
15. Blanket - with IMOGEN HEAP
16. Big Block
17. A Day In The Life
18. Little Brown Bird - with ERIC CLAPTON
19. You Need Love - with ERIC CLAPTON
20. Rollin' And Tumblin' - with IMOGEN HEAP
21. Where Were You