Switching between boyish grins and ferocious snarls as he sashayed and shredded through the opening hat-trick of “Devil’s Haircut,” “Loser” and “Black Tambourine,” the 46-year-old songwriter appeared genuinely thrilled to be playing his hometown, at one point stopping to thank the audience for “braving the weather” (though it was really just a bit of light rain, silly Los Angelinos …) and later reminisced about how many of the hits played were recorded just down the street in Silverlake (among them: the cool psych groove of “New Pollution,” the hyped-up hop of “Qué Onda Güero” and the superb stomp of “Soul of a Man.”)
He dedicated the latter “swampy” track to Jack White “as a producer,” who collaborated with Beck back in 2012 on one-off 7-inch “I Just Started Hating Some People Today” b/w “Blue Randy,” which preceded 2015 Album of the Year Morning Phase. Though that record was packed with gems, he only elected to perform one of its singles, “Blue Moon,” at this gig, which was supplemented by beautifully sung backup vocals from a local choir group. Though his tenor sounded spellbinding, this was one tune where the band’s apparent warm-up-mode looseness didn’t translate well: in particular, drummer Joey Waronker plowed ahead far too quickly, a timing issue that strained the quality of typically pristine track “Loser” early on, too.
One might chalk up the band’s slightly unpolished presentation to a lineup shift – missing were longtime collaborators Smokey Hormel (guitar) and Justin Meldal-Johnsen (bass), the latter’s shoes filled by man-around-town Wayne Moore. But at the same time, the vibe lent itself to a handful of genuinely fun moments. When a fan called out mid-set for Mutations cut “Tropicalia,” Beck actually started to give it a shot before conceding he couldn’t remember all of it, and the group’s free-flowing edge certainly added some visceral oomph to more jams with the choir, including a cover of Pastor T.L. Barrett’s 1971 soul song “Like a Ship (Without A Sail)” and a gospel-infused take on relative rarity “Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods.”
For both, Beck adopted the air of an impassioned pastor, practically preaching as much as he sang, a mode that carried over and improved the impact of funky/kinetic/eccentric selections “Mixed Bizness,” “Sexx Laws” and “Wow.” Despite expectations that he’ll release a new full-length record this year, the latter track was the newest material featured. More than six months after that song’s release, it’d be fair to suspect he’s finished quite a bit more, but good on him and his updated gang for waiting until they’re more dialed in before boasting any big reveals.
Besides, he made up plenty for any lack of previews by slaying it on the final extended jam of “Where It’s At,” which featured slick snippets of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Chic’s “Good Times,” David Bowie‘s “China Girl,” the Doobie Brothers‘ “Taking It to the Streets” (with keyboardist Roger Manning handling Michael McDonald’s vocals), Prince‘s “1999,” Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean” and a bit of Beck’s own “One Foot in the Grave.” An all-star set, indeed.
Beck – HollywoodPalladium – 02/10/17 // By: David Brendan Hall