Jeff Beck!

Jeff Beck doesn’t play guitar so much as caress one. The sonic excellence Beck has produced across his career was on immediate display last night in Red Bank from the opening chords of “Freeway Jam.” Across 90 minutes, the dazzling beauty of “Star Cycle” and the delicate version of Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” were highlights of Tuesday’s sold-out performance at the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre within the Count Basie Center For The Arts.

Anyone awaiting his recent collaborator Johnny Depp was rewarded halfway into the show to the thump of the Link Wray classic “Rumble.” Sporting a beret,  and shades, Depp looked every bit a rock star-but he wasn’t acting. Beck’s guest capably alternated between acoustic and electric axes while handling vocal duties on several songs from the pair’s recent release “18.” Both claimed to play guitar with the other made them feel 18 years old again (hence its title), and sparks flew during their shared time onstage.

Whether tackling The Velvet Underground or Killing Joke covers, Beck relished having a friend around. “This Is A Song For Miss Hedy Lamar” is the best of their original material, and Depp’s vocals often brought extra applause here. The guy’s had a rough year, and ripping through some tunes for an audience is likely the best thing for him. Many surely walked into this performance wondering if Depp was taking his opportunity to work with Beck seriously, and any doubters could see the guys cracking smiles throughout. They were clearly having fun, yet only one scored the volume of bras thrown his way. If they wisely use this tour’s momentum to craft another album, it would be super to have Beck ask Depp to join him on the road again…and perhaps play a few more songs together.

Erik Swift is a 25-year veteran disc jockey at wrat-fm and has seen over 10,000 concerts during that time. That is a very conservative estimate.