By Nick Bequette
July 14, 2014
It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Beck Hanson crashed the top 40 party. Do you remember what it sounded like to hear “Loser” for the first time? How could that song possibly mesh with other mid-nineties hit-makers? Beck made nonsensical lyrics about beefcake pantyhose, burning down trailer parks, getting crazy with cheese wiz and termites choking on splinters – look easy and natural while somehow finding a mass audience for his work.
Other than his first major studio album, Odelay, Beck has flown quietly under the radar of the masses while dipping his toes in genre after genre. Who challenges their fans with albums leaping from Americana to soul? From hip-hop to rock? From psychedelic to funk? And who releases an album solely available in sheet music? Beck has invited all of us to follow him around blind corners, dark tunnels and steep hills. While not every turn has proved successful, the banks of the road he has chosen is littered with discarded artists unwilling to venture too far out of their comfort zone.
Beck brought his tour, supporting his new album, Morning Phase, to a full house on Friday night at the Uptown Amphitheatre. The band hit the stage and set the tone early – nothing would be off limits, regardless of genre or pace. The crowd had already leapt to their feet before the band had fully assembled. “Devils’s Haircut” began an Odelay-heavy setlist, followed by “Black Tambourine.” And for those hoping to hear his only top 10 hit – they didn’t have to wait long. The third song of the night, “Loser,” sent the crowd into another gear. After a harmonica driven “One Foot in the Grave,” the set settled in to a career spanning “hit list.” Well received rowdier songs were followed by polite applause for the more mellowed Sea Change tunes.
It wasn’t until half way through the main set that we heard the first new material from Morning Phase. While Beck pointed out the beautiful full moon that lit the night sky on more than one occasion, he couldn’t help but throw it out there again before “Blue Moon,” arguably the best of his new material. The song, with its cries of “I’m so tired of being alone” was the first to bring a heaviness to the air and made the small outdoor crowd have the feel of a late night, smoke filled tavern. It is fitting that sometime during the set, he added a flat brimmed hat to his tieless buttoned up shirt and jacket, transforming him into a younger, baby faced Tom Waits crooner.
The encore had the singer break dancing during “Where it’s At” and down on his knees, with tongue in cheek, doing his best Prince impersonation during “Debra.”
Other than a trio of songs from Sea Change, Beck kept his foot on the gas. Samples from Donna Summer mixed with “I Think I’m in Love” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” blended into “Sissyneck” kept the restless crowd entertained, if not amused. Three more excellent new songs, and the last from Morning Phase of the evening, were sandwiched together near the set’s end. They deserved a better audience response and could have been better received scattered throughout the show, or perhaps, even in the encore. Hopefully more of the new material is fleshed out live as the tour progresses.
Watch Beck’s entrance in Charlotte at Uptown Amphitheatre on April 29, 2018 with “Devils Haircut.”