Live At the Hollywood Bowl

Jeff Beck

How do you celebrate 50 years as one of the world’s most revered guitarists? If you’re Jeff Beck, you throw a party at the Hollywood Bowl and invite a few friends over for a career retrospective. That’s what happened in the summer of 2016, and thankfully a film and sound crew were on hand to capture it all. Thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment, Beck’s Live At Hollywood Bowl is now on Blu-ray, DVD and CD so everyone can be part of a most unforgettable night.

By the looks and sound of it, Jeff Beck’s half-century as a guitar master received a fairly thorough overview at the Hollywood Bowl. There are some gaps with material from the early 70s with the second edition of the Jeff Beck Group, plus Beck, Bogart & Appice and much of the quirky stuff from the last 20 years, all conspicuously absent. In general, however, you’re still getting a history lesson on all things Jeff Beck.

The show opens with “The Revolution Will Be Televised,” a somewhat uncharacteristic track from the guitarist’s 2016 release, Loud Hailer, featuring singer Rosie Bones brandishing a megaphone and brazenly walking the runway that separates the pool circle from the rest of the Bowl’s seating areas. From there, the guitarist and his band — guitarist Carmen Vandenberg, bassist Rhonda Smith and drummer Jonathan Joseph — go back in time to the best of the Yardbirds.

Singer Jimmy Hall, a frequent collaborator, comes up for quick and dirty blasts through “Over Under Sideways Down,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “For Your Love.” Beck's first instrumental, “Beck's Bolero,” a song credited to Jimmy Page and recorded in the studio with Page, Keith Moon, John Paul Jones and Nicky Hopkins, along with “Rice Pudding” and “Morning Dew” (with Hall) from the first two Jeff Beck Group albums recorded with Rod Stewart, follow in quick succession.

There could be no better way to help punctuate Beck’s forays into instrumental fusion than to have keyboardist Jan Hammer join in for five numbers. The horns from “Freeway Jam” open things up, and Beck and Hammer double down on the main riff like it’s 1976 all over again. “You Never Know,” “Cause We've Ended As Lovers,” “Blue Wind” and “Star Cycle” help fill in the guitarist’s most innovative period. After Hammer steps away, “Big Block” from the one and only Guitar Shop album Beck did with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas, keeps the buzz going.

Singer Beth Hart comes out and nails Etta James’ “I'd Rather Go Blind.” Then Buddy Guy, who opened the night with a set of his own, exchanges licks with Beck on a playful “Let Me Love You Baby.” Bones returns to perform more songs from Loud Hailer — “Live In The Dark” and “Scared For The Children.” Even after 50 years, Beck can still pluck it out within a contemporary setting and stay on topic. But wait, there’s even more surprises.

ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons joins Beck for “Rough Boy,” and then singer Steven Tyler shows up for “Train Kept A Rollin’,” a song both the Yardbirds and Aerosmith famously covered. Tyler sticks around for “Shapes Of Things,” which finds the singer reaching beyond his range. Then Beck meanders through a set mainstay, the Beatles’ "A Day In The Life,” which remains one of the best covers of a Fab Four song. The night, the Blu-ray, the DVD and the CD all end with a spirited version of Prince’s “Purple Rain,” with Hart out in front and Tyler, Bones and Hall singing the backups.

Live At The Hollyood Bowl documents a different kind of Jeff Beck concert. Usually, it’s the guitarist venturing out on deep journeys, harvesting melodies and passages in wild abandon. Here, it’s about a rich legacy encompassing five decades of trends, tastes and constant refinement. If you’re any kind fan of Jeff Beck, this set is something you need to own.

~ Shawn Perry

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