Monday, September 26, 2005

Live Review: Beck@The Riviera 9/21/05

It seems like I've been to a million shows since I moved to Chicago over 5 years ago, but for some reason I had never seen Beck in concert. It's not like I was ever a member of his fan club or anything, but I've always had a steady respect for his work over the years. I mean, c''s Beck! It's hard not to be a fan of his music. Hell, at times his albums have even been significant soundtracks to distinct periods of my life. Odelay was as essential to my sophomore year in college as caffeine and ramen noodles. Crusin' around town, partying in the dorms or even working on term papers late at night, the album was perfect for just about any occasion and it practically followed me everywhere I went. A few years later, Beck rocked me in a completely different way with his Sea Change record. Nursing a broken heart and a serious case of Winter doldrums in early 2003, once again Beck provided the musical score to my life. So when the opportunity to cover Beck's Chicago performance for arose, I didn't hesitate a minute. Finally I would get to see the man who many regard to be one the best artists of our generation. Unfortunately, much like his new album Guero, I was left feeling a bit ambivalent about the whole experience. It was exciting and entertaining at first, but in the end it just didn't live up to expectations. First off, I think I'm still a bit hung up on Sea Change. While Odelay will always be an all-time favorite, it's not something that I listen too a lot these days. Not that it sounds dated or anything, but almost 10(!) years later, hearing songs like "Where It's At" just isn't as exciting as it used to be. Especially live, the older, upbeat material almost sounded cheesy and cliched. Obviously, Beck and his band are trying to have fun and put on an entertaining show, but the songs just don't have the same edge that they did back in '96. Of course, they also played a lot of tracks from the new album, but it's no secret that Guero is the not too distant cousin of for me it was just a double dose of mid-90's nostalgia that I could have done without. Second, I was really annoyed by the crowd. Being in a bit of a hipster cultural bubble, I forgot that Beck is also popular amongst the masses, including young white cap wearin' frat boys who are there just to hear "E-Pro" (aka the radio single) and older suburban lamos (aka former frat boys) who just want to drunkenly sing along to "Loser." I don't know...maybe I just didn't drink enough of the Riv's notoriously lukewarm glasses of MGD to enjoy the show. Maybe I was too distracted by the Beck's annoying sidekick/whiteboy hypeman with the cliched ironic hipster moves. Then again, maybe I'm just becoming a grizzled old man who would rather listen to Beck sing sad folk songs. At any rate, I certainly don't hold anything against the man himself for this performance. It's not like it was a bad show per se , and I still think Beck is a brilliant artist and entertainer. It's just that I think the "funk soul brotha" version of Beck is a bit played out. However, it seems like a lot of people still dig it, so you can't blame an artist too much for giving the fans what they want to hear. But, of course, this is the genius of Beck...he can play to the masses and be irreverent, yet he can also be sincere and please more critical ears with albums like Mutations and Sea Change. Since he tends to balance out his glossy party albums with stark lo-fi works afterward, perhaps the version of Beck that I want to hear will be back in 2007


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9/26/2005 12:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill V said...

I had a similar experience at the Beck show. I suppose I like his up-tempo music best, but I did feel like I was in the middle of a frat party when he played his best known songs. He is quite a talent, I hate shows at the Riv, I guess I'll have to get over that for the Arcade Fire show.

9/26/2005 10:51:00 AM  

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