Jeff Beck, Ronnie Scotts, London

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The Independent Culture

Britain's most famous jazz club awarded Beck their Blues Guitarist of the year award back in May. Now here he is, flashing his Strat no further than 50ft from any of the music-hungry punters who've stumped up 100 a ticket to see the legendary guitar-brother make his Ronnie Scott's debut with a five-night, six-set residency.

Regarded by many of his peers as Britain's greatest rock guitarist, Jeff Beck has cut a deep groove through the history of rock'*'roll, coming up through the Yardbirds as they hit their chart peak in 1966, before leaving to mark out his own unique and sometimes erratic territory, inflicting the Mickie-Most-produced monstrosity "Hi-Ho Silver Lining" on a thousand jukeboxes; inventing heavy metal five months before Led Zep's debut with the Jeff Beck Group's classic, Truth; and, later in the Seventies, veering off into jazz-rock via collaborations with the likes of Jan Hammer.

Regarded not only as one of the great axe-men, but also as among the grumpiest of rock's grumpy old men (he could give Van Morrison a run for his money), Beck's latter-day career has been sporadic in a who-gives-a-toss kind of way, though since 2000, a fascination for fusing his organically-reared brand of guitar with cutting-edge electronics has marked out a relative flurry of studio releases such as 2003's Jeff the album that brought him his first UK gigs since 1990.

Now he is making his debut at Ronnie Scotts', a venue with the kind of intimacy that major rock legends generally aren't used to. But there he is, with his three-piece backing band veteran ex-Zappa drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, Jason Rebello on piano, and a youngster, Tal Wilkenfeld, on bass.

Beck looks in good spirits and up close and personal he is still the archetypal rock'*'roll hero. In action, Beck seems fused with his instrument, plugged right in to the music as the guitar is to the amp. This is a player revelling in what's happening in the moment, the energy-probing intensity of his solos taking off into flights of invention. Even the barmen are rapt.

Aside from introducing his surprise guest, electronica artist Imogen Heap, Beck says nothing until a final, end of second encore "thank you", but the music says it all. For once the hype is right; Beck's run of shows at Ronnie Scotts will give other rock legends emerging from retirement Valhalla a run for their money.