When I first heard that my favorite artist Beck was playing in Los Angeles, I snatched up tickets immediately, not knowing whether he would play anywhere closer to me. He eventually did schedule two shows nearer to me (Santa Cruz and San Jose), but Steph and I decided to make a weekend of it, and we drove down to Universal City (quite near Glendale, actually) to see him play on July 23rd. Of course we took the Hyundai. How could we not? This was the last show for this leg of the tour.
The concert was really great. I really appreciated the fact that almost none of the songs he did sounded like the album versions. They were reworked quite a bit, pieces were added or removed, and in many instances, several songs were smashed together into one big song. I guess I could call that a medley, if I were so inclined.
As far as visuals go, they had a live “video DJ” on the stage mixing visual images to go with the music (“scratchin’ DVDs” as Beck put it). It was really unique, and added a good bit to the music since it always went with the feel of the song quite well. They didn’t allow cameras, but I felt like breakin’ the law, so I snapped a horrible shot on my cameraphone. I know! It’s almost like you were there! There… and wearing fuzzy goggles, and squinting, and shaking. That’s the look of contraband, ladies and gentlemen. (Luckily I can count on a random Flickr user to bail me out. Those are from the show I saw.) I wish someone had caught him using some of his random stage props, like the construction helmet and megaphone, or the gigantic scissors, with which he feigned an impromptu haircut at the beginning of “Hotwax.”
On top of the visuals, Beck had five or six other guys with him on stage. One of these peeps was Ryan, the “world’s greatest dancer.” I seriously loved watching this guy dance. He danced like he was directing traffic and all the drivers were blind. You’ve just gotta see it to believe it. Lots of arm waving and jutting, lots of jumping, lots of punching and running and rolling. Hysterical and wonderful. The guy is skinny for a reason.
The sound this group was able to put out was massive and raw. E-PRO had me jumping up and down in Row U. I mean, I felt stupid, but I couldn’t help it. The jam worked all the way back to Row U. You’d regularly hear a sound and think, “What the heck is that?”, but just as soon, it would be replaced by another sound which was just as strange, and just as Beck. Personally, I could’ve used a pinch more vocoder, but I’m a sucker for vocoder.
My favorite part of the show may have been the acoustic section, where all the other band members sat at a table on stage and ate and drank (with Ryan as their waiter in a skinny black tie, white shirt, black pants, and white sneakers) while Beck just played his guitar and sang solo. It was a clear reminder that while, yes, Beck can go crazy and jam with the best of the Rock legends, he’s a folk artist at heart, and has a beautiful voice, too. The audience sang along passionately with “Lost Cause,” and guffawed with his partially-improvised rendition of “Deborah.” I think the line about the Hyundai was actually the climax of that version. Really nice.
I was surprised when he pulled out “Loser” after the band joined him again. I had thought he might be one of those artists who tries to forget their past, but he was apparently not ashamed, and that’s good. I just wish he had done “Mighty Good Leader.”
Well, that’ll have to do for now. I’ve gotta sleep. I encourage you all to see the show if you enjoy his stuff. If you don’t, then don’t. Especially if TV Sheriff is opening.