Music Blu-ray Review: Jeff Beck - Live in Tokyo

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Filmed on April 9, 2014, Jeff Beck’s latest concert video release Live in Tokyo features the guitar great back by Nicolas Meier on guitar, Rhonda Smith on bass, and Jonathan Joseph on drums. The 20-tune setlist ably demonstrates why Jeff Beck is one of the very few instrumental-based rock artists who can pack arenas full of enthusiastic music fans. From powerhouse covers of rock classics like Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” to jazz fusion pieces like Billy Cobham’s “Stratus” and John McLaughlin’s “You Know, You Know,” Beck and his band keep things unpredictable.

Beck himself is quoted in the liner notes as saying, “Listening to my music should be like grabbing a bunch of albums from different categories… Unless you saw it live you wouldn’t know it was the same band.” That effect is achieved in spades throughout Live in Tokyo. He’s definitely got the musicians to back it up. Rhonda Smith is perhaps best known for her years recording and touring with Prince as part of the NPG. Her funk and rock instincts are in full force here, powering tunes like Nicolas Meier’s “Yemin.” Meier is an accomplished guitar, fluid in seemingly any genre, who acquits himself nicely despite the daunting task of being the “other” guitarist in Jeff Beck’s band. Drummer Jonathan Joseph is also, by necessity to fulfill Beck’s vision, extremely versatile, providing seemingly endless stylistic and rhythmic variety.

Eagle Rock usually delivers a concert video presentation so it comes as no surprise to report that Live in Tokyo offers a sharp 1080i transfer. The no-frills staging allows viewers to focus on the music with a minimum of visual flourishes, but the straightforward videography is always easy on the eyes.

Audio options include DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0. Each sounds good, but the 5.1 mix is definitely preferable. This is a rock concert, after all. Eagle Rock’s lossless surround presentation is terrifically enveloping, always keeping Beck’s guitar work upfront but packing in plenty of LFE oomph for the rhythm section.

Bonus features include 15 minutes of “Setlist Commentary” and an additional five minutes of “Band on Band” discussions by the musicians. The Blu-ray is also supplemented by a booklet featuring new liner notes by music journalist Peter Makowski.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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