Jeff Beck and Johnny Depp thrill fans during surreal Chicago shoot

The collaboration is an idea that has often influenced the career of English guitarist Jeff Beck, who worked in the band Yardbirds and Jeff Beck before recording albums with artists like Jan Hammer, Jed Leiber, Imelda May and many others. , en route to US album sales of over five million over nearly six decades.

His latest studio album 18 sees the legendary guitarist working closely with actor and musician Johnny Depp, best known for a filmography responsible for three Oscar nominations, as well as working with artists like Shane MacGowan, Iggy Pop, Oasis and the Hollywood supergroup Vampires (which places him alongside Alice Cooper and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry).

Released last July 18 finds the duo creating a pair of original compositions while putting their own spin on eleven covers ranging from the sunny pop of the Beach Boys to the post punk goth rock of Killing Joke.

The album is the centerpiece of their current tour, which crosses the United States until mid-November (before Depp’s recently announced European dates with Hollywood Vampires in 2023).

Most of the new album is instrumental, with Depp providing vocals for a handful of tracks. The duo mostly stuck to this format on stage Sunday night at the Chicago Theater, a performance where banter was kept to a minimum.

“Thanks!” Beck said after “Big Block.” “Johnny! It’s Johnny!” he said at the end of the show, pointing left at the guitarist, Depp only adding vocals as the duo opted to let the music do the talking for 90 minutes. .

Backed by a powerful three-piece band (drummer Anika Nilles, bassist Rhonda Smith and keyboardist Robert Stevenson), Beck kicked things off, with Depp joining the set halfway through for six songs before returning during the encore.

While Depp was content to cede center stage to Beck, Beck was equally generous to his bandmates, allowing the trio’s latent jazz backbone to shine throughout.

Beck reworked the classic “Freeway Jam” to open the show, bringing the hook to the fore. Arms spread wide, he flashed a huge smile as the song drew to a close, with this year’s dates marking his first performances since 2019.

Beck walked to the left, approaching his band as “Loose Cannon” began next. Smith had his left foot on the drum riser as the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer glanced over his left shoulder and back, beaming at his band before raising his right arm in sign of triumph at the end of the song.

Stevenson’s keyboards shone during an atmospheric intro to “Midnight Walker,” the new album’s finest moment and one highlighted by Beck’s deliberate, soulful choice on Sunday night in Chicago.

Sunglasses on his back, Beck performed as the vocals of Brian Wilson on a delightful cover of The Beach Boys’ “Caroline No,” with the guitarist later switching to dialog during Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues.” .

Beck really locked in with Smith during “Big Block,” the early shredding giving way to more bluesy licks as the song progressed, the force of the rhythm section on full display. But nowhere was the band’s power clearer than during “You Know You Know,” a Mahavishnu Orchestra cut that featured long drum and bass solos from Nilles and Smith.

“It’s great to be back here in Chicago,” Beck said after “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.” “Better to have help for the next one,” he said as Depp, looking like a rock and roll drifter, took to the stage for the first time on Sunday donning a scarf, sunglasses and a hat.

“We love you, Johnny!” began an almost unbroken barrage of affection for the actor and musician. Some fans were dressed in Pirates of the Caribbean cosplay, showcasing a continuous cacophony of screams, screams, howls and moans throughout the Sunday night concert.

Beck and Depp conjured up images of a bygone era as they set off with a frenzied version of Link Wray’s “Rumble,” Depp, 12 acoustic strings in hand, adding lead vocals to the new “This is a Song for Miss Heady Lamarr”. ” Next.

Jacket and back to electric guitar, Depp grabbed the microphone with both hands, leaning into an early vocal on John Lennon’s “Isolation,” the duo’s debut single and a collective highlight on Sunday night.

With a quiet intro of “Time” by Dennis Wilson fully shouted by the surreal assembly, the duo headed for an encore with a psychedelic, instrumental version of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”, Depp on acoustics as Beck blasted through a series of electric solos, going from soft to loud, playing slower then faster, guitar in the air as he left the stage. Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” was an encore shortly after.

Armed only with a harmonica and an acoustic guitar, singer-songwriter Desure captivated the sold-out crowd during the half-hour opening, starting with “Cocaine Smile” before posing. the harmonica for “Coming Down”.

Desure, who met Depp while working in a tattoo shop, performed an infectious cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” before moving on to “Kick Rocks” and new single “Threads.”

“I’ve been on the road with these guys for 14 dates. This is my last night,” Desure said onstage at the Chicago Theater. ‘is good.

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