The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Concert Review: Beck

Written by: Carl Johnson, Special to CC2K

ImageMy favorite Scientologist surprised Los Angeles with a special warm-up show before embarking on his current Japanese tour. Beck announced he would be doing a special show to benefit Educating Children International and even posted an informative bulleting with a link to their site.

A Beck show at a 300-person venue that also helps children – that is a total win/win situation.

It wasn’t until you tried to click on the link for Educating Children International that I found there was no such organization and it is really a front for Scientology. This wasn’t the first time Beck pulled something like this, but who cares. I go to shows for the music, not their religious status.

Lining up at 6:15 in the evening, knowing the flyers said doors at 6:45 p.m., the line was already making its way down the street. When the clock hit 7:00pm and there was still no update on the door situation many were wondering if the show was going to be canceled (as Beck had done with the last two shows he scheduled at the Echo).

At 7:30 p.m. with the doors still not open many were really getting worried of a super short set, especially when you had to factor in that the venue was double booked with another show starting at 10pm. We finally got our answer from the doorman at 7:40pm and were slowly let into the tiny venue.

You never know what you are going to get at a Beck show. With 10 albums under his belt there is so much material that it becomes more of a guessing game of what songs and era of music he would be playing.

It was slightly after 8 p.m. that Beck came onstage with a stripped down set for this stripped down venue. I know many have complained about Modern Guilt’s Emphasis on the production and mixing of Danger Mouse but the way we got to hear these songs was quite different from the record.

No focus on the beats and processed sounds, no instrument changes happening the whole set, just Beck hammered away on his black guitar with his 5-piece group. The guitar being beat up to the point of all markings of make and type on the head disappearing. Also disappearing was Beck’s long hair as he now has a psudo Ben Gibbard emo reverse mullet. Party in the front, business in the back.

This party, being a warm up show for his Japanese tour, focused extensively on songs from his current album. We got a big chunk of “Modern Guilt” to fill the evening. Gamma Ray, Orphans, Chemtrails, Modern Guilt, Youthless, Walls, and Soul of a Man were all played in a stripped down fashion that reminds you that Beck is capable of anything.

One surprise was when the band started the song Chemtrails. A member of the stage crew moved Beck's mic stand up a little too much, so when he went to sing it wasn't at his mouth. The backup vocalist started to sing the first line, realized Beck wasn't singing and stepped back. Instead, they did a long psychedelic intro that was face-melting. The drummer was wide eyed, grinning and looked amazed to be playing at that moment.

This wasn’t the only surprise for the set.

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Another member of the crew ran onstage and taped down the lyrics to a song Beck claimed, “Is about a girl I know from this very area. I hope she isn’t here and I hope she doesn’t know it is about her”. This song, the b-side to the Gamma Ray single, was Bonfire Blondes. It also needs to be noted that this was the first time this song had been performed live to an audience. It’s no wonder Beck needed the lyrics put down on the floor.

Other highlights of the set included a plugged in version, complete with a long spacey intro, of the acoustic song Lost Cause. I am always stoked to see an artist put a new spin on a classic song. And for classic songs nothing could top when the group broke into Asshole, a song that was continually scram by the elated fans in the packed the venue.

When the sixteen-song set finally ended with Time bomb no one even moved from the stage. Even though the clock was already past 9:30 the chants of “one more song” filled the room. The house lights came on and music started playing over the PA system signifying the end of the show. Still not a person inched away from the stage.

“Beck, Beck Beck!”

The house lights dimmed, the house music stopped, and the band made its way back on stage.

“So what do you guys wanna hear?”

Because I am too cool to scream out I just hoped someone would shout some song off “Midnight Vultures”.

“How about Sexx Laws?”

The band then went into a rendition of Sexx Laws, sans the horn line, giving it a very distorted feel. It was even better when they immediately went into my favorite song Debra to end the set.

This was the true sing-a-long of the set. Most people being from the area knew about “stepping into the Hyundai and going to Glendale”. And there was the huge shout out for local favorite “Zankou Chicken”.

I get hungry just thinking about it.

Even though we got no material off of “Odelay” this was one of the most complete Beck shows I have ever seen. And even though my $40 went straight to benefiting the followers of Xenu, I would happily pay twice that to the Scientology Celebrity Center to see this set again.

Carl also maintains a blog at MySpace!