Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bumbershoot 2008: Beck energizes and amazes on main festival stage

Going into yesterday's Beck show at Bumbershoot, I'd seen him four times already and had never been disappointed. I was also quite giddy because he's an artist that seems to bring out the kid in me, evidenced by my squeezing near the front of the Memorial Stadium stage with people half my age.

A girl next to me wrote Beck a list of things she wanted to say to him, if given the opportunity. One of them was not to not enforce his Scientology views on others, even as passionate as he is about it. Another girl nearby decorated her leg with a temporary tattoo that read "Beck", and a guy on my right side had waited in line since 3:45 that afternoon just to be close to the front.

I had them all beat, as a diehard Beck fan I once took a day off from work when he was in town to hopefully bump into him. I didn't, but my writing career would later benefit me with a rare chance to meet him in person (three years ago). I was giddy and speechless then, and I was giddy and speechless last night when the pop genius strode onstage at 9:15 and opened with his classic "Loser".

This was the first time I'd ever heard "Loser" played as the opening number, and it set the tone for what would be a high energy and incredibly fun night. The following song was "Girl", and it was a jumpier version than the original found on 2005's Guero album. "Timebomb" was loud and sorta punk'ish, while "Gamma Ray" sounded groovy and vintage rock.

The marvelous thing about Beck in concert is that he's always creating new methods of playing old favorites, like an electronic and punchy rendition of "Nicotine & Gravy" or a hip-hoppy take on "Black Tambourine".

His very long hair and once-youthful face hidden underneath a large hat and all-black attire, Beck appears to be that middle-aged man and musical poetic figure we eventually knew he'd grow into - but we still wish for that apple-cheeked, sneaker-wearing, California surfer boy from to reappear at times.

"This is for all the gueros, the guerolitos", Beck said introducing "Que Onda Guero". The song kept its authentic Mexi-pop feel and got everyone singing along, some waving their arms during the chorus.

A highlight was a purely electronic version of "Hell Yes", as Beck strapped a head set on and stood in a line at the foot of the stage with his four-piece band. Another momentous occasion, and one of only a few that were mellow, was a moody-good performance of "Lost Cause" from the singer-songwriter's Sea Change disc.

"Devil's Haircut" was incredible, as a giant lit-up screen flashed cherry red images of a bullseye and 45-vinyl spindles.

This was an edgier, more digital, more electrifying, and dancier performance by Beck than his appearance at the Sasquatch Festival in 2006. He seemed to be in such good spirits and in the mood to tinker with, not just play, his songs in front of a huge crowd. His latest recording effort, Modern Guilt, seems to signal the reinvented experimental side of Beck that now extends to his live act.

Beck gave a two-song encore, and what an encore it was! "Where It's At" had the entire pit raising their hands in unison and shouting, "two turnables and a microphone!" and then a ripping version of "E-Pro" got everybody bouncing, similar to a hip hop show. It was a total blast, the first time I'd ever bounced at a Beck concert!

On my way out, I heard a college-aged guy say to a friend, "I'm freaking out, I just saw Beck live!". This was my fifth time seeing Beck in concert, and I was just as freaked out kiddo.

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