There are few greater living musicians in the world today than Beck, with great songwriting prowess and a healthy output of material over the years. Only one question remains: can he cut the mustard live? Unreservedly yes is the answer.
Fresh off a well-received appearance at last weekend’s Glastonbury festival, Beck has stuck around for a couple of extra dates here in Blighty, one down in London at Brixton Academy and one in Manchester’s small but spacious Albert Hall. One might think these a bit of a step down after playing to thousands at Worthy farm just a few days before, but the smaller setting diminishes him none. In fact he actively thrives in such humbler surroundings.
After being warmed up by a politically-charged Badly Drawn Boy in support (great value for his half hour set), Beck comes on stage clad in check shirt, slim jeans and trademark hat and gets right down to business. Opener ‘Devil’s Haircut’ from his 1996 masterpiece Odelay gets the crowd pumped and suitably loose and limber as he settles into the funk of ‘Black Tambourine’ before getting the crowd to tear the roof off with his mega hit ‘Loser’. Beck commanding the audience at will to sing that well-known refrain of ‘I’m a loser baby/So why don’t you kill me’ en masse is captivating to say the least.
And the hits just keep on coming. ‘Hell Yes’, ‘Mixed Bizness’, ‘Que Onda Guero’ and ‘The New pollution’ all follow. Quite simply, this is a man that knows how to please his audience. Tickets may have been a little steep at nearly £50 a pop but when you are getting this level of fan-service it’s hard to complain of feeling short-changed.
After the early ascension Beck brings the gig down a bit to a more tranquil level, playing material from his critically-acclaimed, Grammy winning album (soz Beyonce) Morning Phase. ‘Blackbird Chain’, ‘Heart Is A Drum’, ‘Wave’ and ‘Blue Moon’ all get an airing, highlighting the man’s great knack for writing beautiful, melancholic country as well as surreal funk pop.
To finish Beck brings the crowd right back up with a slew of hits again. Last year’s ‘Dreams’ sounds massive and ‘Sexx Laws’ has the entire crowd on their feet. Ending on an extended version of ‘Where It’s At’ (with some added Chic, Bowie, Kraftwerk and Prince snippets thrown in the middle for good measure) this great venue gets the gig it deserves from the Californian prodigy.
It seems that not only is Beck one of the world’s greatest living musicians, but he’s one of the greatest performers living too. A definite recommendation to go and see live.
It’s where it’s at.
Que Onda Guero
The New Pollution
Go It Alone
Think I’m In Love
Soul Of A Man
Heart Is A Drum
Where It’s At