Beck Does Brooklyn Right with Generous Helping of Hits: Concert Review

Paul Familetti
In one of only two electric shows scheduled for this summer, the rock, folk, blues, country, Latin and funk star delivers the goods.

“It’s been an intense tour,” admitted Beck during his band’s closing show Sunday night at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Then, after an expertly timed comic pause, he admitted the truth. “It’s only been four days.”

It was, in fact, the last of only two electric concerts by the veteran rocker and his original Sea Change band -- including the invaluable Smokey Hormel on guitar and Joey Waronker on drums -- that is scheduled for this summer. Otherwise, he’s been mostly playing the festival circuit, performing acoustic sets at such events as the Newport Folk Festival.

It made the occasion all the more special, because the singer was clearly in a crowd-pleasing mood, delivering a rousing, 100-minute career-spanning show that included a generous helping of hits including “Devils Haircut,” “Black Tambourine,” “Loser,” “Hotwax” and a rousing encore of “Where It’s At,” in which he did a mock soul man routine as the band lengthily vamped.

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Sporting a wide-brimmed black hat, he moved effortlessly though musical styles encompassing rock, folk, blues, country, Latin and funk, demonstrating the range that has kept him a vital performer for two decades. Ranging from acoustic numbers like “Golden Age,” “Lost Cause” and the bluesy “One Foot in the Grave” to danceable pop like “Gamma Ray” (“This is a song for the summertime, for the beach,” he said by way of introduction) and “Sissyneck,” the expertly paced show never flagged.

He also playfully interpolated other pop hits into a few of his songs, including an intro of “Tainted Love” before “Modern Guilt” (a flubbed segue demonstrated the lack of rehearsal time); a snippet of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” during “Think I’m in Love” and, in “Sissyneck,” launching into a spirited if ragged version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” He also reprised his cover of the Korgis’ 1980 hit “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” that he recorded for the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind soundtrack.   

Although a new (double?) album is rumored for later this year, the show included no new material, save for two numbers from Song Reader, the sheet music collection he released last year, including “Just Noise,” a mellow pop song featuring Hormel on ukulele, and the hard rocking “Heaven’s Ladder.”

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Holding up the tome, he joked, “It’s pretty heavy, if you need a doorstop or if you’re attacked by an assailant.”

The sold-out crowd ate it all up, vigorously dancing to the uptempo numbers and happily joining in, incongruously, on the memorable lyric “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?”

It seemed downright perverse that a show this good only received two performances -- the band had played Boston a couple of nights earlier -- but then again, Beck has made a specialty, and a great success, of defying expectations and playing by his own rules.

Set List:

Devil’s Haircut
Black Tambourine
Soul of a Man
One Foot in the Grave
Modern Guilt
Think I’m in Love
Gamma Ray
Que Ondo Guero
Soldier Jane
The Golden Age
Lost Cause
Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime
Just Noise
Heaven’s Ladder
Fourteen Rivers Fourteen Floods
Where It’s At

Twitter: @THRMusic

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