NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Beck is one of those artists where anything goes when it comes to his music. Sometimes that experimentation can turn fans off but that is not the case for Beck. The music making maestro and his fans have a special bond and that was quite evident Thursday night at the Saenger Theater.
Beck kicked things off with "Devil's Haircut" from his breakout 1996 album "Odelay." The fans stood up, danced and rarely stopped the rest of the hour and 40-minute show. Decked out in all black with his trademark hat, jacket with fringe and a scarf, Beck aptly jumped into "Black Tambourine", one of six songs he would perform from his 2005 album "Guero." The crowd would then get another retro thrill as Beck launched into the song that started his roll, the quirky rap-rock song "Loser". When the band dove into "New Pollution", another "Odelay" staple, Beck made sure he and his fans were going to have a fun night.
The simple stage set up was well served by a giant video screen belching out bright animated graphics orchestrated with each song. While Beck is the musician's musician for reportedly playing dozens of instruments, he stuck with an anti-guitar hero electric guitar all night, his well-worn 60's Silvertone. There would be no custom Les Paul or Fender Strat for Beck, his trusty Silvertone (which was sold by Sears back in the day) gave him the perfect lo-fi crunch tone live that supports his music so well.
Beck is most engaging live though when he drops the guitar and gets his dance groove on and 10 songs in, he did just that for the dance romp "Hell Yes." Beck was set to headline the second Saturday at Jazz Fest this year but the heavy rains that day canceled his slot. He talked about that "act of nature" and it being a "surreal day." He said he made the best of it and did a second line later that night. His love of New Orleans is palpable as he tipped a nod to it being "one of the last places left to see original soul" and that we "always have really cool shows here."
While Beck is known for mind-bending musical genres that get the blood pumping, he also creates beautiful acoustic music. This is the part of the night that Beck gets to spread his singer-songwriter wings. While it gives the concert a pause from its rip-roaring pace, the crowd was very appreciative to hear five cuts from two of his most critically received albums, 2002's "Sea Change" and 2014's "Morning Phase" which won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Realizing the change of pace and mood he thanked everyone for allowing him to make this kind of music and going with it.
Beck was hardly done as he wound it up for a mighty finish playing two new songs from an upcoming yet untitled album. They tore into "Dreams" and the just released "Wow" which was the first time he played that song live. After ending the set with the rocking "E-Pro" he took his first bow.
The band would come back for a multi-medley encore starting off with a riff from the soulful "Debra." But before that took off, Beck sang "Let me take you down"...from the Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever" and then they transitioned into "Where it's At" and the dance party was on from the balcony to the orchestra seats. Beck broke off again to introduce the band. As he did they each broke into snippets of classic cover hits like "Good Times" from Chic, "China Girl" from David Bowie, which he substituted the words "China Girl" with the name of his guitarist "Jason Falkner" and "1999" by Prince. The medley kicked back into "Where it's At" before Beck broke out the harmonica for a final stroke from "One Foot in the Grave" to end the show.
He definitely left the crowd wanting more and when it comes from Beck you never know what's next.
1. Devil's Haircut
2. Black Tambourine
4. The New Pollution
5. Mixed Bizness
6. Qué Onda Güero
7. Think I'm in Love
8. Modern Guilt
9. Soul of a Man
10. Hell Yes
11. Go It Alone
12. Paper Tiger
13. Lost Cause
14. Heart Is a Drum
15. Blackbird Chain
16. Blue Moon
20. Sexx Laws
23. Where It's At with band introduction medley, Good Times (Chic), China Girl (David Bowie) 1999 (Prince) and One Foot in the Grave