Review by Evan Cohen
The mark of a true artist is the ability to reinvent oneself. I recently wrote on this page how Bruce Springsteen on his most recent studio album and tour has embraced American folk music to stunning effect. Beck, who, over the years, never had a problem changing up genres from folksy acoustic, to hip-hop to funk - sometimes even in the very same composition - is certainly no stranger to metamorphasis. Just when you thought a Beck show couldn't get any better, he introduces puppets.
Yes, puppets. Beck has never been one to skimp on a booty-shaking, crowd-pulsing stage show. But last night - the finale of what I guess you can call his Bonnaroo tour, with mostly southern dates - was legendary. Part Broadway spectacle, part Sesame Street, this was, by far, the most innovative, forward-thinking rock and roll performance I've even seen. Not only did Beck keep his hometown crowd on its feet with a melange of medleys, the stage was adorned with mini-Beck and his backing band marionettes that strummed, drummed and body-rocked in perfect sync with the performers themselves. (And if that spectacle weren't enough, video cameras, which projected the puppet performance on the big screen revealed a set of mini-marionettes and puppeteers behind them. No detail was left behind in the staging of this show.)
And then there's the music. In between releasing his latest remix project, Guerolito, and gearing up for Bonnaroo and the mini-tour (he's off to Europe now for a few dates), Beck has been busy in the studio prepping a new release slated for September. A few of those new tracks - "Nausea," "Cell Phone," "Clap Hands" - were on display last night, and they complemented a host of hits. There was "Devil's Haircut," "Mixed Bizness," "Lost Cause" and "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes," his haunting Korgis cover, as set-piece in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, an outrageous duet with Zero 7's Sia - "You're The One That I Want" (the uber-cheesey John Tavolta/Olivia Newton-John classic, which was a repeat performance of their 2004 KCRW "Sounds Eclectic Evening" collaboration. The nearly two hour performance was book-ended by anthems old and new - "Loser," the opener, "Where It's At" and "E-Pro" as the encores.
The show would've been a night to remember in-and-of itself, until I heard about a secret after-show performance at the Silverlake Lounge. Puppets were swapped out for wigs, and the band jammed until two in the morning. Joined on stage once again by Sia and his soulful supporting act, Jamie Lidell, the band launched into "Black Tambourine" and then "Where It's At," which were segued into Prince, Queen and Denise Williams covers. This was truly a homecoming for Beck, and you could tell as he recounted stories about the taco stand that previously occupied the Silverlake Lounge building, he felt right at home.