Music Blu-ray and CD Review: Jeff Beck - Live at the Hollywood Bowl

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Jeff Beck's new Live at the Hollywood Bowl is a straightforward, no-frills concert movie that offers the opportunity to see the guitar master do what he's been doing for over 50 years. Joined by a number of guest vocalists, Beck runs his impeccable band through 21 tunes spanning his entire career. The film keeps the focus firmly on the music, which is exactly what it should be with a musician like Mr. Beck. Rather than quick-cutting and all the other visual flash meant to create "excitement" is modern concert videos, we're allowed to spend time taking in all of the guitar virtuoso's frenzied fret-work—pretty much a special effect all its own.

Always a highlight whenever he performs it, The Beatles' "A Day In the Life" now functions as a tribute to the recently-departed George Martin (who passed earlier in 2016, months before the Hollywood Bowl concert was recorded). Martin was Beck's producer for his two best-selling albums, Blow By Blow (1975) and Wired (1976)—here on Hollywood Bowl we have a few cuts from these classics, including "Freeway Jam" from the former and "Blue Wind" from the latter. The Hollywood Bowl "A Day In the Life" isn't quite the monumental, Grammy-winning take that graced Live at Ronnie Scott's but it's certainly good nonetheless.

Another of the best moments occurs near the end of the show, with Beck and company's tribute to Prince with "Purple Rain." Guest vocalist Beth Hart (who also simmers earlier on "I'd Rather Go Blind") invests gritty soul in her take on The Artist's signature song. It's a powerful way to close the show, anchored by bassist and former NPG-member Rhonda Smith (I witnessed Ms. Smith play this numerous times with Prince in concert—can only imagine how she felt playing this so soon after his passing). Elsewhere Steven Tyler proves once again he possesses one of rock's more gracefully-aging voices with go-for-broke assaults on "Train Kept a-Rollin'" and "Shapes of Things." Buddy Guy, Jimmy Hall, Jan Hammer, and Billy Gibbons are among the additional guests.

Live at the Hollywood Bowl is available on standard DVD as well. Both the Blu-ray and DVD packages include the entire concert on two audio CDs. If you're at all like me, watching the actual concert video is a rare occasion. The audio discs are what get the most playing time, for me anyway (sitting in the living room watching a 97-minute concert takes commitment!). Great inclusion on Eagle Rock Entertainment's part, for car listening, etc (I usually hit 'repeat' at least twice when it gets to "Purple Rain"). The 1080i Blu-ray looks outstanding and sounds even better—for concert film viewing, my preference is the robust DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix. Also available: LPCM 2.0 stereo. No special features, but again—kudos to Eagle Rock for the awesome double-disc CD version included in the digipak.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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