Monday, July 25, 2022

Jeff Beck feat. Johnny Depp @ Olympia, Paris - July 25th, 2022


Jeff Beck has made a career out of confounding expectations: he's changed his approach to the instrument several times, has taken several sharp turns in his musical direction, concentrated on session work for a while and even stopped working altogether for a long stretch in the nineties. He's tackled blues, rock n' roll, jazz, soul, hard rock, electronica and countless other genres while never losing his artistic identity and, as he's pushing eighty, is showing no sign of settling down.
This new tour cycle sees the English guitarist pairing up with another maverick: famed actor Johnny Depp, fresh off a scandalous televised trial, is providing vocals and guitar on half of the show and no doubt that his star power is a big part of why the show was sold-out, with ticket sales starting off sluggish until Jack Sparrow's appearance was confirmed officially by the promoter. Fair enough: anything that brings awareness to Jeff Beck is a good thing.

On the purely musical front, the concert was astounding. As usual, dare I say. This was my eighth Jeff Beck concert and every time I see him I am left awestruck by his absolute control of every facet of the electric guitar, his nuances, his phrasing, his endless inventiveness and his musicality. Back on bass is bassist Rhonda Smith, a monster player who played with Prince among others, and two newcomers: Robert Adam Stevenson on keyboards and Anika Nilles on drums. All of them were given their time to shine.

The show starts off with a few Jeff Beck classics and some choice covers, and it's a pretty standard modern JB "fusion" set until, much like the abrupt shifts in his career, the concert takes a different path as Jeff starts playing Link Wray's Rumble and announces the arrival of Johnny Depp. This is the part where the girls in the audience go apeshit and the musos start frowning. In all fairness, the guy has a real rock n' roll presence but he just seems strangely out of place at a Jeff Beck show.

The second part of the concert sees Jeff Beck playing second fiddle to the Hollywood superstar, to the delight of a portion of the audience and the annoyance of the rest. While every intervention from the guitarist is pure delight, they are too few and far between and eclipsed by the celebrity taking center stage. Depp, to his credit, stays humble throughout. There is no ego, just an indisputable aura. But that aura overwhelms that of the man whose name is on the marquee. And then there's the fact that his his guitar playing and singing are nothing to write home about. Not unpleasant in the slightest, but his presence brought absolutely nothing to the show, except perhaps a distraction from the real hero of the night.

Along with Depp also came other nuisances that, in all fairness, he has no control over: the women in the audience trying to give him cards, flowers, their phone number, or maybe serve him with a paternity suit... There was extra security and at several points the event came pretty close to turning into an evening at the circus... Except the circus was in the crowd rather than on stage.

That being said, despite the set being a little off-balance, it was still a remarkable show. Again, Jeff has lost none of his dexterity on the fretboard and the emotions he conveys with his microtonal inflections are astounding. Chris Spedding said it best in Guitar Jamboree (although talking about Chuck Berry): he can make a guitar talk.
















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