Thursday, November 13, 2008

beck @ club nokia

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a VIP. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that, thanks to KCRW, my tickets to see Beck preform on the first night of the newly opened Club Nokia, weren't at will-call. No, they were waiting for me at the VIP entrance situated at the mouth of a very loud, very hip club. Life is weird. However, I am resonantly pro any weird that comes with free sushi and drinks.

Kicking off the night with the honor of playing the first song on the new stage, was Rilo Kiley front-woman Jenny Lewis. Despite Rilo Kiley playing heavily into my running play list ("The Moneymaker" has been personally responsible for many exercise related near-death experiences this year), I've spent more time contemplating the color of Jenny Lewis' hair than the quality of her solo projects.

I am an idiot. This is, of course, is not a particularly new revelation. To set the record straight: Jenny Lewis is a captivating, intriguing performer. Being a Bob Dylan fan, I do not say this lightly, but there is a touch of Highway 61 excitement to her performance style. Chalk it up to her reserved stage persona (so much, in fact, that boyfriend Jonathan Rice provided most of the on-stage banter) coupled with seemingly intimate lyrics starring a cast of wanderers and ruffians. Say what will (keep in mind I'm not making any grandiose statements about our generation's "poet laureate") but take a close listen to "The Next Messiah" vs. "Like A Rolling Stone." Girl's got a familiar spark.

Sometimes, much to my fifteen-year-old self's chagrin, I forget just how much I adore Beck. Five albums and three concerts since my days of scribbling Odelay inspired poetry in fourth period AP English, his material still sounds fresh and exciting -- a shared opinion as evidenced by the crowds' sing-and-dance along to anthemic, even after all these years, single, "Loser." Truthfully, any review of his show falls under the same category as dancing about architecture. I hate to say you would have had to to have been there, but seriously -- where were you? The hair has gotten a bit longer, and now he's occasionally joined by his son on stage (ears swaddled in the largest pair of headphones possible), but musically? Time has altered very little for the sultan of slackers. The more he changes, it seems, the more he stays the same.

Over the years, Beck has kept most critics at bay by changing styles every few albums. While this makes it difficult to recommend the body of his catalogue with any accuracy (no really, I swear, you'll like this white boy rapper/disco soul man/folkie/rocker!) the dichotomy between albums makes for some of the most energetic shows around. After a rocking set of white boy rapping, including a selection from the unfairly maligned Guero played on what appeared to be video game consoles, the winds shifted and serious Beck came to play, ripping though several downtrodden songs from Modern Guilt (exponentially better in concert than on CD) and the bummer-any-way-you-slice it Sea Change. Most surprising was was a finger-picking cut "Hollow Log" from the early, folky, One Foot In the Grave. Hooray for obscurity!

The night ended cyclically, as Beck, accompanied by his now infamous dancer (cheers to you my arrhythmic brother-in-dance!) lead the crowd through another dance-along. As the final na-na-na strains Guero opener "E-Pro" echoed away there was very little left to say other than, of course, it better not be another five years before Beck and I meet again.

mp3: "Vampire Voltage No. 6" by Beck
mp3: "Acid Tongue" by Jenny Lewis

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