On stage, Jeff Beck keeps the music moving and evolving, even as he steps back to revisit his roots. But that isn't even safe from the guitarist's appetite to expand his palette of sonic textures and arrangements. The repertoire changes on a dime, at least as evidenced by a portion of the setlist from Tokyo Dome City Hall in Japan on April 9th, 2014, captured on the Live In Tokyo Blu-ray, that differs so slightly from a tour with ZZ Top. For this outing, Beck kept the same band — bassist Rhonda Smith, drummer Jonathan Joseph and guitarist Nicolas Meier — and added singer Jimmy Hall, who sang with Wet Willie in the 1970s, and appeared on Beck's 1985 album, Flash. The song selection veered from predominantly instrumental fusion to a bigger pinch of rock and roll. At least this is the way it plays off on Live +, which features 14 live tracks and two "new" studio songs.
Even as Beck reshapes each successive run, some things never change. "Loaded" is still the opener, and by the way it tenderizes and warms the band and audience up, it's a natural in that spot. The quirky take of the Beatles' "A Day In The Life" is a longtime resident, and it never grows stale or rusty as the guitarist squeezes the melodies firmly, boldly, without remorse. Beck professes his love for John McLaughlin before blasting off with Mahavishnu Orchestra's "You Know, You Know," another holdover from Tokyo, along with Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," and the Irish ballad "Danny Boy."
It's when Hall steps up that Beck's rock past comes to light. "Morning Dew" sizzles with the intensity the guitarist brought to the Jeff Beck Group version of 1968. "Why Give It Away," which may or may not be a "new one," depending on whether you believe the introduction, boogies and shakes. Hall blows harp and sings while the band falls in with a fairly straightforward rocker. A sudden shift to the Sam Cooke crooner "A Change Is Gonna Come" reveals yet another side of Beck's impulsiveness and varied tastes. Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious," which Beck originally played on, gets an energetic kick when the guitarist stretches out on a fuzzy and fluxon solo. "Rollin' And Tumblin'" and "Goin' Down" are two more stompers that ZZ Top fans stood up and tipped beers to.
"Hammerhead," "Big Block" and "Where Were You" are slick diversions that probably knocked the rockers out of their ham-fisted stupors. Then the whole thing gets decidedly eclectic when Beck's first studio recordings since 2010 come up on the dial. "Tribal" is reminiscent of the kind of electro-industrial tones Beck employed on 1999's Who Else!, 2000's You Had It Coming and 2003's Jeff. "My Tiled White Floor," featuring singer Veronica Bellino, is lighter, more melodic, driven by high production, Beck's indomitable riffing its only edge. Listening to Live+, you have to commend the man for exploring new terrain, all while keeping it real and reveling on the concert stage.
~ Shawn Perry