Beck At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, July 19th, 2018, Reviewed
Back in 1996 I caught Beck on the Odelay tour, playing the tiny, late lamented, The Supper Club and I was thisclose to the stage and I already knew him from “Loser” but I hadn’t precisely been aware of him and really expected a straight up and to the side folkie. Instead I got James Brown morphed into a scrawny, white, blonde skateboarder. Blew me away, that’s for sure. A fan for life, right? Not so fast. Over the ensuing 20 odd years, for every album I liked there was two I hated and I would have skipped Beck at Madison Square Garden completely only Tomas Doncker convinced me to go with him, and then blew it off for band rehearsal.
I wish I hadn’t gone.
It was one of the more disappointing gigs of the year and it wasn’t even all that bad. It just started so great, as though Beck had stepped back twenty years and opened the show with world beating “Devil’s Haircut” and “New Pollution” and I just settled back in awe that he could do such hard throttle hard rocking, flash dancing brilliance at the age of 48. But, though it wasn’t bad, “Mixed Bizness” followed by last single “Wow” were not quite as good. After which he brought out personal bugaboo, the godawful Britt Daniel’s of Spoon and yeah, repeat, no.When the music heads south for the winter, other problems that you forgave, such as the preposterous, ignorant and arrogant lack of close circuit TV, becomes much more annoying. Or going on stage at 918. Sure, it is only eighteen minutes late, but it changes the complexion of the set when it starts late, forces you into exasperation mode and ends twenty later than it should, I love 1030p ends… I didn’t get it. The very next song Jenny Lewis joined him and Jenny had been the opening act and just terrific, she followed “Arms Open Wide” with “Portions For Foxes” and with her cracker band was right on top of her game and more than good enough to headline.
As for Beck, he was really pretty good. I liked the stuff off Morning Phases and Colors that left me icy on record, and I regret the lack of Sea Changes material, but, just as he did 20 years ago, he managed to travel between electric and acoustic with intelligence and ease. Plus he told the lamest Bruce Springsteen story ever. Even so, the material isn’t where he needs it to be and while the Arena didn’t dwarf him, it sure made us feel far away.