Review - Jeff Beck & Johnny Depp @ the SJ Civic (11/9/22)

Kevin Keating
Rhonda Smith & Jeff Beck @ the SJ Civic (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Rhonda Smith & Jeff Beck @ the SJ Civic (Photo: Kevin Keating)

The SJ Civic this past Wednesday night saw the arrival of one of guitars' greats, Jeff Beck. And he didn't come alone. Jeff brought with him a backing band that consisted of bassist Rhonda Smith, drummer Anika Nilles and keyboardist Robert Stevenson. But that wasn't all, joining the roster on rhythm guitar and vocals was none other than Johnny Depp. Johnny was a late addition to the tour and I was expecting to see quite a few of his film fans in the audience, but the vast majority were there to see Mr. Beck -- at least from what I could tell.

Jeff played with his band for the first eleven songs before Depp joined the 4-piece and quite honestly, there were too many highlights from that first part of the set that I couldn't write them down quick enough.
One of my early favorites was "Big Block" where Rhonda's bass lines were just thumping throughout and all while Jeff worked his fingers up and down the neck of his guitar creating some amazing tones that shifted throughout song.

Jeff led the way in "You Know You Know" until it was time about midway through to give Rhonda & Anika the spotlight. First was Rhonda's bass solo which was featured an awesome mix of slap and strumming, and then Anika gave her sticks some time to shine as they worked over her kit with both Rhonda and Jeff quietly playing in the background and off to the side to get Anika as much attention as possible. 

I'll admit that I wasn't familiar with "Star Cycle," the eighth song of the night but I remembered thinking to myself that the keyboard synths within the track reminded me of something I would have heard from the early '80s TV show, Miami Vice... And wouldn't you know, Jan Hammer, collaborated with Beck on the the 1980 release, There & Back. No wonder why it sounded like it should have been on Miami Vice! I should add that Ronda continued to blow me away with her bass playing too -- and not just on this song, but through the entire night.

Rhonda Smith, Anika Nilles, Jeff Beck, Robert Stevenson & Johnny Depp @ the SJ Civic (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Rhonda Smith, Anika Nilles, Jeff Beck, Robert Stevenson & Johnny Depp @ the SJ Civic (Photo: Kevin Keating)

By the time Johnny Depp joined the band, I was already basking in the Rhonda/Jeff show. Honestly, they didn't need the addition of Depp to the show because they were already that good. But Johnny didn't bring technical mastery or even vocals that could make the night any better. This was now the second time I've caught Depp perform -- the first was when he toured with the Hollywood Vampires and played the Warfield back in 2019 -- and I began to wonder how Depp's been able to align himself with some of rock's greatest performers? The Vampires included Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Alice Cooper; and here's Johnny playing with Jeff Beck -- literally one of the greatest guitarists of all time. I mean, if I were Johnny Depp, I'd be living an absolute fantasy life if I were able to play with these legends. I had to assume that Johnny's got to be pinching himself each time he walked out onstage -- and if not, he should be!

Depp played with the band for just about the rest of the show, and although his guitar was solid, I thought his vocals were actually a little timid and lacked the confidence I would have expected... But other than that, Johnny added a bit more stage presence to the fairly staid Beck.

The band covered the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" and I swear, there were a couple of people in the audience who were having near out-of-body experiences. The song was good, but the folks reminded me of those you might see at a church service speaking in tongues. Up to this point, mostly everyone in the audience has remained in their seats, but this song finally got a standing ovation from the crowd.

After a short break, Beck returned with "Corpus Christin Carol" and then my last highlight of the night, a cover of "Little Wing" by Jimi Hendrix. The evening closed with a cover of Killing Joke's "The Death and Resurrection Show" which was great, but not what I expected for a Jeff Beck closing number.

Ultimately, it was fantastic to finally catch Jeff Beck live, and although the addition of Depp was interesting -- and hopefully a way for Beck to reach a younger and new audience -- the musicianship of Beck and Rhonda Smith were the absolute highlights of the night. Don't miss Beck when he returns to the Bay Area and be on the lookout for Rhonda too!

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Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp Setlist San Jose Civic, San Jose, CA, USA 2022

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