Johnny Depp/Jeff Beck Tour Brings on the Guitar Heroics, Fan Shrieks

Johnny Depp/Jeff Beck Tour Brings on the Guitar Heroics, Fan Shrieks

Johnny Depp brought his tour with Jeff Beck at the Hackensack Meridian Health Center at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, NJ, Tuesday night, four months after a jury awarded the actor $10 million in damages following his Virginia defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard.

The pair kicked off their U.S. tour in Washington, D.C. just a few nights earlier, on Oct. 5, after releasing the joint album “18” this summer, and Tuesday’s show capped off a two-night New Jersey stand that attracted a crowd of fervent Depp supporters who regularly screamed “I love you, Johnny” and showered the actor with bras, cards and notes tossed to the stage, regardless of his recent, highly publicized court battle with ex-wife Amber Heard. 

Beck, who turned 78 in June, was in fine form, as he skillfully gave a guitar masterclass in touch, tone and technique, playing in perfect sync with his bassist Rhonda Smith, drummer Anika Nilles and keyboardist Robert Stevenson. He opened the show with a setlist that kicked off with the freewheeling “Freeway Jam” and  “Loose Cannon” and included covers of the Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No” and choice selections. Beck was all smiles, with a playful smirk even as the dapper gentleman buttoned his vest seamlessly between tunes. He was generous with the spotlight, allowing Smith to shine on a funky bass solo, and riffing magnificently off Nilles, whose impeccable drum fills and precision melded with Beck’s trademark perfectionism. Beck seemed touched when a woman yelled, “I’ve loved you since the Yardbirds!”

The crowd rose to its feet when Beck announced that his “beautiful baby” — Depp — was about to join the stage. The actor, wearing a newsboy hat, flannel-patterned jacket, sunglasses, bandanas, chains and holding a cigarette, strolled out to the sounds of Link Wray’s “Rumble,” joining Beck in a hug as the crowd exploded in applause. Depp and Beck played off each other, backed by Nilles’ pulsating beat, as Depp swayed from side to side, grinning and acknowledging screaming fans in the crowd, holding his hand to his heart.

Depp then switched to an acoustic guitar for the somber “This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr,” a song that tackles the conundrum of fame, as the lyrics spin a tale of the starlet “erased by the same world that made her a star.” He then took a moment to appreciate Beck’s solo at the end of the song.

Depp and Beck cruised through the rest of the set, with a performance of John Lennon’s “Isolation,” an instrumental of the Beatles’ classic “A Day in the Life,” a swirling odyssey through the Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs” and a fiery finale of Killing Joke’s “The Death and Resurrection Show.”

Show opener Desure used his time wisely, making an impression with an acoustic set that was well received by the audience. Armed with an acoustic guitar, Desure deftly navigated a nine-song set that featured songs from his new record, “Still Blue,” including the single, “Threads.” The stripped-down setting gave Desure’s lyrics a chance to shine, particularly on “Cinderella” and a song written for the singer’s hometown of “Los Angeles.” With a guitar and harmonica, Desure’s sound passed for a certain New Jersey singer, and the indie artist endeared himself to the New Jersey audience with a sweet version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”