Concert Review: Beck
EmptyVenue: Hollywood Bowl
Saturday, Sept. 20
With a huge sense of irony, Beck kicked off his triumphant homecoming show Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl with his 1993 slacker anthem "Loser." A decade and half after gaining notice with that breakthrough hit, he has the clout to handpick openers Spoon and MGMT and to share the stage with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra Strings, conducted by his father, David Campbell.
Although he's touring to support the recently released DGC album "Modern Guilt," Beck treated the capacity crowd to a career overview, drawing on highlights from his diverse oeuvre, with the second half of the set specifically designed to take advantage of the evening's orchestral support.
The result made for an interesting evening, spotlighting Beck's talent and musical schizophrenia. At one point, he and his five-piece band went from the traditional setup of guitar, drums, bass, and keyboards -- on songs like a frantic cover of Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" and the one-off single "Timebomb" -- to donning headsets and handheld beatboxes for the white boy hip-hop of "Hell Yes" and "Black Tambourine." From there, the band was joined by the orchestra. Campbell has orchestrated strings on Beck's albums and at the Bowl for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson, but this marked the first onstage collaboration between the father and his son.
The eight songs featuring the orchestral support drew on different influences and employed various instrumental configurations. "Modern Guilt" bounced with an infectious Kinks-y pop. In "Missing," Beck mixed tropicalia with psychedelia, as the orchestra swelled behind him, while "Chemtrails" was a full-scale '60s-inspired psychedelic freakout, with the evening's best use of lighting and an LCD backdrop.
Once the orchestra was dismissed, Beck and company brought back the party vibe with "Where It's At" and ended the evening with a bang with the rollicking "E-Pro."
Openers MGMT and Spoon proved to be Beck's kindred spirits. The former explored prog-rock and electronic dance music, while the latter performed smart and catchy pop. Neither, however, could match the charisma of the night's headliner.