Sweaty and exhausted, the question I asked myself as I climbed the steps out of Gibson Amphitheatre into the cool California night was: “What is there not to like about Beck Hanson?”
This multitalented artist blew the crowd away with a performance that not only spanned all of his records, but slalomed through more genres than many record stores contain. Starting the night of with the infectiously danceable “Black Tamborine” off of his latest, Guero, Beck set the tone for the night immediately. The show began not with a spotlight on the man himself, decked out in confidence and a calm demeanor that comes with knowing that he has nothing to prove, but instead a pool of brightness that followed around a man in black slacks a little too short for his legs, a white button down, a black tie and thick black spectacles.
…he seemed allergic to standing still.
The man’s name is Ryan, and Ryan is the man. His purpose, as near as I can figure was to dance. Dance. Dance. Dance. His erratic, and yet somehow perfectly coordinated dance moves gave license to all the white boys in the crowd (read: me) to dance how ever they chose (read: horribly, or perhaps without inhibition; whichever tickles your fancy). At times, Ryan sat down behind the second of the two drum kits that Beck had on his stage and banged out a beat that intersected and complimented the primary beat of the song, and at times he tickled the keys of the xylophone, but most of the set, he had a tamborine in hand; he seemed allergic to standing still.
The show itself felt less like a standard concert and more like a big party at Beck’s house, wherein he played the part of the most popular kid in school, whose talent seems to be limitless, and we audience members played the part of the second year students who looked up to him — yelling out to him to recreate tricks or imitations from parties past. His set list was at once carefully planned and spontaneous, the band transitioning from one song into another so smoothly that it was a moment before one realized that they had switched songs — remixing both at once, live, creating an entirely new tune, from the fusion of the two old ones. Thus the folky twang of some older songs found their way into the electronic bass driven songs of the most recent relases.
…like ambrosia from an acoustic guitar
About forty minutes into his set, Beck put down his electric guitar, and relinquished the possiblity of taking the mic into his hands — standing on the monitors, and deftly rapping in the way that only he can get away with. He picked up an acoustic guitar then, and treated the audience to nearly a full set of his own music, which stood in stark contrast to the electronic deluge that he had just unleashed upon the crowd. He treated us to renditions of his hit “Lost Cause” off of his sorrowful Sea Change; a song that is so simple in its structure that it is easy to overlook the beautiful craftsmanship that went into this tune about letting go of a love that is beyond saving. Of special interest was his rendition of “Everybodys Gotta Learn Sometime”, a song that feels like it never is quite in key, but is pleasing to the ear and soul — like ambrosia from an acoustic guitar. The song, which rolls over the end credits of the artitically exploratory Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), seemed almost out of place without the images of Joel and Clem running across a snowy beach on infinite repeat, fading to black, and I found myself closing my eyes and not focusing on Beck’s sober performance of the tune about the importance of clarity in love. Continuing to promote the feeling of a giant party instead of a show that we had paid to attend, Beck even indulged in asking the crowd: “What do you want to hear?” — a smile crossing his lips as he listened hard to the front rows yelling song titles out at him. To his credit, he even played a few of these requests on the spot, acoustic, to the great cheers of the certain audience members, to whom he laughed after he had finished, “You guys right here are running the whole show”.
As Beck strummed on his hollowed out instrument, his band took a short siesta, sitting down at a table on stage, complete with food and glasses of wine. They relaxed and did pretty much everything they could to pretend they weren’t still sitting in front of a few thousand people. They succeeded, and the performance art aspect of the show was even more pronounced as Beck took on the solo rock star mantle as they made believe they were at a diner down the street from the venue. When they suddenly exploded out of the background, into the public eye again, it was even more impactful than the classic half acoustic, the band comes in for the second chorus trick. The band members all echoed stomp in their purcussive talents, the plates and utensils on the table becoming drums, the lips of their wine glasses morphing into tibetan singing bowls, coloring in the lines of Beck’s final acoustic song.
Afterwards, the band raced back to their instruments and treated the crowd to a few more songs, finishing up with the opener of the new record, E-Pro. For this last song, he invited anyone who cared to, to come up onstage and dance along with the band that couldnt keep their feet in one place. The result was a moment in which every person in the theater was moving along with the music, jealous of those who had the cajones to step onstage and dance along side the man himself, a moment that assuredly would have the party shut down by the cops at any second for its loud, boisterous, spilling out into the street sort of feeling. The perfect note to end any good concert on.
The words “Brilliant”, “Amazing”, and “Motherfucking talented sonofabitch” were flowing more freely than acid at a Doors concert.
Climbing the steps, and making my way back to my car, walking in step with the other energy infused/rock paralyzed by the coolness fans, I heard nothing but good things uttered from the mouths of people who had heard every song they wanted to, and ones they didn’t even know they wanted to. The words “Brilliant”, “Amazing”, and “Motherfucking talented sonofabitch” were flowing more freely than acid at a Doors concert.
I have to say, I’m hard pressed to disagree.