Los Angeles is a town full of secrets. Ordering "animal-style" at In and Out. The Fountain Avenue Freeway. The handshake at the Magic Castle. But like those poorly buried skeletons - this cat is out of the bag too. Beck has been playing a series of clandestine shows around his native Los Angeles. There was Spaceland on January 15th, the three Echo Shows and a show last week at 1650 Schrader. He returned Wednesday night to 1650 (formerly known as Vinyl), and played to a near capacity crowd. It seems that the first few dry runs worked out well for Beck and his new ensemble Matt Sherrod (drums), Dan Rothchild (bass), Brian Lebarton (keys), Greg Kursten (berimbau and guitar) and Ryan Falkner (dancer, or as I like to call him the hipster/dufus poster-child) who was clad in a tight Flash T-shirt. The band sounded tight as they offered up selections from the forthcoming LP Guero (due March 29th from Geffen/Interscope.)
The new tracks, which included "E-Pro", "Que' Onda Guero", "Black Tambourine", and "Hell Yes" are reminiscent of Midnite Vultures - funked-up, sexed-up lyrically enigmatic dance gems. He also served up Vultures' "Nicotine and Gravy" and "Get Real Paid", which complemented the new material excellently.
There's a pattern that has emerged in Beck's releases dating back to Mellow Gold, his first major label album. He puts out one acoustic-based album, then one more heavily produced and on a more funk-tip. The pattern holds with Guero, the follow-up to 2002's contemplative Sea Change.
I knew what to expect from this performance as soon as I heard the old-school hip-hop pounding from the loudspeakers in the moments leading up to the curtain. Beck was here to bring the house down. And he did. In fact, he only picked up a guitar for one song, instead opting to throw down beats on a sole turntable and lacing rhymes with his trusty microphone.
The crowd, which looked more than a tad long in the tooth -- hey some of us have been in the fan club since the 20th century-- was grooving and bopping right along with Beck and the dancing machine in the Flash T. Seems that marriage and fatherhood have not made Beck mellow - it's had the opposite effect. He wants to bring the dance party to you. When he rolls through your neck of the woods, lace up your dancing shoes and join the party.
Louis XIV - the best thing to happen to San Diego since Kellen Winslow - opened the show and continues to impress crowds with their bizarre hybrid of beach-blanket lyrics and hard-licking British guitar rock. The night's proceeds went to the International Foundation for Human To Rights and Tolerance and their effort to safeguard the tsunami orphans in Sri Lanka. For more info or to donate, call 323.661.1196 or visit them online at www.humanrightsandtolerance.org.