Beck’s Many Colors Shine Brightly in Atlanta at The Tabernacle (REVIEW)

By Max Stewart

Beck is the music world’s most versatile chameleon. Each album is a journey into a new musical climate, where he blends seamlessly into wildly-differing soundscapes, while somehow remaining distinguishably unique. His sonic expeditions have led him into quiet forests (Sea Change, Mutations), omnifarious jungles (Guero, Midnight Vultures), and even accessibly-bright flower patches, like on his latest danceable and electro-friendly release, Colors.

Hordes of music critics rejoiced (while Top 40 fans scratched their heads) when his introspective and downtempo 2014 album, Morning Phase, beat out Beyonce and Ed Sheeran for the Grammy Album of the Year. On the heels of the success of the album, and in classic Beck fashion, his next undertaking was a stylistic left turn: his most upbeat pop record to date with mainstream producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia, Ellie Goulding).

img_7002-1When Beck brought his idiosyncratic show to Atlanta for night one of a two-night stand at The Tabernacle, it was not clear what would be in store for the man of many musical hats. Would we get ambient, acoustic Beck? Drum-sampling, hip-hop maestro Beck? Maybe even oblique, lo-fi Beck? His endlessly-creative set turned out to be a hodgepodge wave of peaks and valleys that painted the corners of all stylistic fronts, including electronic, rock, rap, pop, country, folk, and soul.

The night’s opener “Devil’s Haircut” was a gritty throwback to vintage 90s alt-rock Beck, before the bass-thumping “Black Tambourine” lead into the new late night anthem, “Up All Night,” from Colors. The good-timing latest record was well-received by the audience, translating very well within the framework of Beck’s buoyant live setting (including during “Colors,” “Dear Life,” “Dreams,” and “I’m So Free.”)

“We’ve got some important business to take care of tonight,” Beck stated in an entertaining preamble ahead of 1999’s “Mixed Bizness,” which really turned the party up for the longtime Beck faithfuls in the crowd. The Midnight Vultures representation continued on with “Hollywood Freaks,” an avant-garde hip hop fusion tune that nearly perfectly exemplifies the diverse charisma of Beck. 

img_7089Beck whips around the stage throughout the night, shuffling and jumping like the same awkward but intriguing twenty-something that folks fell in love with on MTV in the mid-Nineties. The seven additional band members augment the broad-based vibrancy of the performance, while a stage riser equipped with large, colorful video projections ensured the show was visually-pleasing even for folks even in the upper levels.  

“How’s everybody at the top? Sorry for you having to look at my hat, if I had a better costume you’d have a better show…” Beck had no trouble keeping the in-between-song banter fun and engaging throughout the night, he even spoke of embracing “dead space” and said that shows in Atlanta make his “pants get a little looser.”

When the band exited the stage momentarily following “Go It Alone,” the ever-so-ironically-cool Beck quipped, “I think we’re alone now.” He then launched into an acoustic medley of songs that included a shoutout to the ‘Wal-Mart yodeling kid’ (Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues”), a dedication to the late Prince (“Raspberry Beret”), and the goofily-souful love number, “Debra,” which really tested the crowd’s collective falsetto range. Beck’s early coffee house days and genuine love of traditional country remain evident in his fingerpicking guitar style, notably on “Heart Is A Drum,” and one of the subtle highlights of the night, “Lost Cause.”

img_6961Wrapping up the main set with “Girl” > “Loser” > “E-Pro” ignited the Monday night Atlanta audience into a frenzy of cheers and cheesy dad dance moves. The night’s encore was sprinkled with the blues-harmonica of 1994’s “One Foot in the Grave,” an epic introduction of the band where each individually showcased a snippet of a song (including Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Gary Numan’s “Cars,” and Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime”), and the anthemic night-on-the-town vibes of “Where It’s At” (coupled with a rowdy “Where It’s At” reprise to cap off the show). This once again solidified the genre-bending range fans will get at a Beck concert, with the crowd on its feet at every turn.

Beck is continuing to defy the idea of musical classifications while playing a mixed bag of superb material from his 30+ year career on the road, and he is doing so with a sophisticated and endearing charm. Beck still is the man of many colors, and his thirteenth album proves that he is the same lovable-loser with two turntables and a microphone that just wants to bring an eclectic party to the masses.

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