“Are you going to get your picture with Johnny Depp?” Patting her hair into place, the fan breathlessly explained that the actor was posing for photos down the street from The Capitol Theatre. The red carpet atmosphere was complete with signs on the venue doors prohibiting bouquets and gifts. At most concerts, flower-throwing is not a common enough occurrence to warrant hastily-printed warnings. Surely, that rule also applied for all of us who had trekked up to Port Chester for Rock Hall double-inductee Jeff Beck, the legendary guitarist bringing actor-musician Johnny Depp along on tour. Against security’s best efforts, at the end of the exciting show, both stars accepted forbidden floral arrangements, tee shirts, and even a bra that soared up to the stage. When Beck amusedly held it up to Depp’s chest, it was one of those only-in-New-York moments that was madly surreal.
The catalyst for the studded undergarment’s flight was a nice balance to appease the majority: a show that was heavy on untethered Jeff Beck badassery, with enough Depp action (after the first five songs) to placate his fangirls. The order of events was an opening acoustic set from Depp’s singer-songwriter friend, Desure, and a face-melting performance from Beck and his band, with Depp adding dexterous guitar and some vocals. The crowd was a comically wild mix: opinionated aficionados who didn’t want anyone guesting with Jeff Beck; very-made-up chicks who couldn’t stop giggling about Johnny Depp; easy-to-please folks just tripping on the Yardbirds history; entire gaggles of New Yorkers who looked like posh celeb side characters from some movie or some show. Among all subsets but the first, the combined Beck/Depp merch was selling quickly. A shirt with both their faces inherently holds historic value, especially since they just became musical collaborators in recent years.
For those who have already gotten to witness Jeff Beck live, it may seem like a no-brainer to rave, but he plays guitar in a way that validates why guitars were invented. There was such artistry to his sonic handiwork that his motions were just as engrossing; akin to watching someone blow glass or paint with a palette knife. His fingers, perpetually difficult to follow, moved in a flurry of visual trickery. The unpredictable nature of his style was striking: it was impossible to figure out where he was going and when the next big arc would start. He seemed to continuously riff on the edge of a cliff, always ready to drop into another valley of live ideation. Jeff Beck was also well supported by a hypnotic rhythm section: bassist Rhonda Smith, who, right away, played an unforgettably nimble solo, and drummer Anika Nilles, who rocked hard with ease, as if drumming on a cloud. New York got a generous dose of Jeff Beck’s intricate fret exploration with opener “Freeway Jam,” a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues,” “Big Block,” “Star Cycle” and “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.” We even enjoyed a freeform rendition of The Beach Boys’ “Caroline, No,” a cover that Beck & Depp released in the summertime.
When Johnny Depp first joined Jeff Beck onstage, the pair played Wray & His Ray Men’s “Rumble,” followed by one of their new collaborative jams, “This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamar.” The boys then dug into some classic covers, including energetic cuts of John Lennon’s “Isolation,” The Velvet Underground’s “Venus in Furs,” and an epic run of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” After the encore, Jeff Beck set sail on Jimi Hendrix staple “Little Wing” before Depp stepped back into view, smoking something hand-rolled and looking pretty stoked. It was even cooler to see how much fun Jeff Beck was having sharing the guitar spotlight with his friend. In a surprising finale, the supercharged group busted out Killing Joke’s “The Death and Resurrection Show.” Depp projected the words like deep-timbred daggers, as if all of his famous film roles had merged into one hard-rocking persona. When Grape-Brasco-Sparrow-hands ditched his outer layer, he had cloth bands tied around his strumming arm that suited his inseparable pirate vibes.
A J-smoking amount of time after the show, something genuinely startling occurred in Port Chester. Horror movie screams abruptly reverberated off the buildings surrounding The Cap, as if many girls had encountered a giant spider simultaneously. This blood-curdling chaos echoed a second and third time, its sound waves traveling all the way past the train tracks where attendees awaited the late-night train to Grand Central Terminal. The cacophony sounded more like danger than affection until it morphed into clear chanting: “JohnNY! JohnNY! JohnNY!” Meanwhile, there was an internal chant of “Jeff, Jeff, Jeff” among the classic rock admirers who were still too stunned to shout. As Depp chasers compared blurry phone captures, the others quietly wandered off. Heading home, they happily tried to come to grips with the Jeff Beck grooves that had just enhanced this side of the universe.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley