Beck - Red Rocks - August 15, 2014
Beck plays earlier this summer in St. Louis.
Jason Stoff for the Riverfront Times. Full slideshow here.
You might have thought that Beck's Red Rocks set would be a slowpoke, folksy affair akin to his latest studio album, Morning Phase. Nope. The night was a twenty-plus year retrospective, covering everything from 1994 mega-hit "Loser" to his recent foray into Nick Drake territory.
Beck and company went big from the beginning, playing like an army of coked-up monkeys just released from their cages. "Devil's Haircut" was first on the agenda, followed by "Black Tambourine." A couple songs later came "Loser," by which time the sold-out crowd was about to lose its goddamned collective mind. This was the first time Beck has played Red Rocks in over a decade.
Beck, flanked by the same six musicians who played on 2002's Sea Change, danced effortlessly across the stage, doing some Napoleon Dynamite-esque shimmying while the band played on. Being the cool motherfucker that he is, Beck never seemed to lose his own composure. Not a bit: he looked like he'd planned every note and every move in the mirror before stepping on stage.
There were projected images of volcano-type things and digital stopwatches on the massive backdrop screen. During "Where It's At," he brought out a two-foot-high robot (outfitted with a theremin). There were strobe lights capable of causing mass seizures.
To explain the ecstasy and utter weirdness of Friday night's Red Rocks gig, can we for a moment recall Beck Hansen's background? This is a man whose mother once played with Jack Kerouac's daughter in a band called The Whippets. He once had an entire orchestra, marching band drummers and a gospel choir back him for a live performance of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision." He's a Scientologist, too, so... there's that fun factoid.
It should have been no surprise then, when Beck began doing the robot dance during "Hell Yes" while also attempting his best Southern Baptist preacher impersonation. Likewise, it should have been no surprise when he suddenly said to himself "fuck it, I'm gonna stop rocking and start playing some sad introspective jams," and then proceeded to harsh everyone's mellow by doing four or five slow songs including the downers "Blackbird Chain" and "Waking Light" (both from 2014's Morning Phase).
In the end, the mopier fare was well-received but overshadowed by the more energetic party anthems. Bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen was channeling his inner Job (from Arrested Development), doing a very sweet and heartfelt chicken dance during "New Pollution." Beck, in a moment of near-delirium, warned the audience, "I'm gonna lose my mind for about fifteen seconds... then I'll be alright," and followed that up with "Where It's At." Before the night was over, the band would perform the best song of the night ("Debra") and would cover at least parts of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean."
The set ended with the entire backing band jumping on top of each other in a sort of homoerotic dogpile, with Beck wrapping the stage front with police tape. Then they came back to play five more songs. Because, you know, it's Red Rocks and there were 9,000 people screaming for more.
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