Beck - Central Park SummerStage - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Beck - Central Park SummerStage

by paul_guyet Rating:9 Release Date:2012-04-08

While I'm almost 100 per cent certain going in that he will play the hits, including 'Loser', 'The New Pollution', 'Devil's Haircut', and close with the extended version of  'Where It's At'*, I never expected to hear Beck play another track from Midnite Vultures live again, as he seems to have matured away from the trashy, electro sleaze-funk of that incredible record**.

But, I keep forgetting that he is the second funkiest white man alive, and, therefore, can be wily.

When he first speaks, he tells the crowd that the band didn't know whether to come out fast or slow, and that they'd decided that the show would be a 'W'. The 23rd letter of the alphabet has never been so honored.

The slower moments include selections from Sea Change and his latest album, Morning Phase, and, although he plays almost half of the latter, I could do with more, as everything from it sounds tremendous live, even 'Country Down', one of my least favorite tracks from the album. The three high-points of the 'W' are made up of bits and pieces from most of his 11 albums, with a leaning towards Guero, and everything is... Beck. It's Beck. 
What else can I really say? Nothing.

So, let's do standout moments!

'Que Onda Guero' - I find the album version kind of annoying, perhaps because I used to live in Spanish Harlem which sounds kind of like the song, just without any of the music or Beck and with more shouting and whistling, but his sweat-pouring enthusiasm just completely nullified all the negative associations.

'Paper Tiger' - Although I would have given my kneecaps for a string section (which probably would have sounded like nightmare cats fornicating because of the goddamn humidity), this worked out beautifully; such an amazing translation of one of my favorite tracks from Sea Change.

'Girl -> 'E-Pro' - While I was kind of expecting 'E-Pro', I was not expecting 'Girl'. I still maintain that 'Girl' could be one of the all time best summer songs. Hearing it live with the soft breeze and watching the last traces of the sun still in the sky was, for me, a defining summer moment. Plus, I don't think I've ever seen 'E-Pro' tackled with such ferocity. You ere unable to not sing along with the chorus.

'Blue Moon', 'Waking Light', 'Heart is a Drum' - These were all exquisite, although, again, without the strings, they felt a bit flat. Also, some of the bridge was cut from 'Waking Light' (the part with all the strings), which bummed me out; I could have listened to a 15-minute version of that song.

'Sexx Laws' -> 'Debra' - What can I possibly say? Justin Meldal Johnsen (Beck's go to bass master for more than 20 years) screaming about laws? The goddamn banjo? And then, a sprawling version of 'Debra', one of my favorite Beck tracks.

At one point, while he was on his knees, trying to relate to us just how lovely of a lady she was and just how crazy he was driven by Jenny, Sean Lennon (from opener 'The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger') came on stage and draped a cape over Beck's shoulders, to which he remarked: "Someone has put a cape on my mantle of loneliness".

Looking back, I would have loved to hear more of the new album*** and more of Midnite Vultures, and I would have also loved it if the fucking sound-system at SummerStage hadn't sucked quite so many balls, but what can you do? It's not like people have been playing live music outside for almost a century.

But, none of that is Beck's fault and I don't want any of this sounding sour. Bearing witness to Beck, one of my favorite artists, performing with men who have created some of my favorite Beck albums over the past two decades was a truly unique experience for which I am eternally grateful.

Even if you've seen them before, see them again, they will surprise you.

* Yes, yes, "Ooh la la sassoon", whatever you say, Mr. Hansen.

** To my great and unending sadness.

*** Should have gone to his show at the Hammerstein the night before, which included a few more tracks from Morning Phase as well as 'Hell Yes' and 'Get Real Paid'.

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