PHOTO BY JOSH PELTA-HELLER
As a rule, I hate concerts with hand-clapping. The one and only exception to my rule is Beck last night at the Festival Pier on the final stop of Colors tour. Having long worshipped the 90’s experimental rock god from the first time my dad played “Loser” for me on a car radio back in 2008, finally seeing him live was surreal to say the least. As the band opened with an earth-shaking rendition of “Devils Haircut,” the stage lit up with a colorfully morphing visual display on the two-story back screen. The vibrant 90’s designs of said display, paired with the bright purple suit Beck was rocking, gave the night a time-capsule-like feel that I feared would end in a nostalgic and gimmicky disaster for superfans.
But I am happy to report that my fears were unfounded. While it’s true that Beck is by no means the same angsty manboy slacker of “Loser” nor the suggestively sultry narrator of “Debra,” he has found a way to continually reinvent his sound and himself in a decades-long musical odyssey without losing the bounce in his step — bopping, pogoing rhythms of newer songs like “Up All Night,” and “Dear Life” were some of the most high-energy moments of the two-hour show. Beck’s trip through the last thirty years of his back catalogue was mirrored by multiple costume and instrumental changes. Going from a Willy Wonka suit to an edgy black leather jacket to a regal white one (all with matching Panama hats), Beck zigzagged from techno distortion to an acoustic duet of “Girl Dreams” with opener Jenny Lewis to an impressive cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret.”
The futuristic side of Beck was repped by the warped sound effects and robotic dance moves. And the strobing colors on the back-screen during his more recent songs resembled the hypnotic visuals of an EDM rave. But what was more interesting perhaps was his willingness to embrace old school show biz rituals like introducing the band. And for a brief and shining moment, with his hat slung low over his shaggy hair and sandy mustache during a harmonica solo, I could’ve sworn he was Bob Dylan. Teetering on the border of two millennia, Beck has an audience that is equal parts high schoolers and folks old enough to be their parents. So despite the initial gag reflex at all the arena-rock stage antics, they enabled Beck to bridge the widening age gap and entertain two different generations at the same time, while remaining free and clear of the dreaded dad-rock tag.
Ending with a prolonged delivery of an awesomely techno “Where It’s At,” Beck took a moment to give an extended thanks to all the fans that have stuck with him through the many twists and turns of his career. As the band passed around a fern during their final moments on stage, I couldn’t help but think how intentionally corny some parts of the night were. But then again, when you’re an artist on your last night of tour for your thirteenth successful studio album who not only helped set off a rock revolution twenty years ago but also actively contributes quality material to music of today, well you can afford to be just about as fucking corny as you want. — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER