Short

Beck’s London show last night was a welcome party for one album – and a wake for another

Well, after thirteen albums you'd expect the Californian to know what he's doing

You’d imagine it takes some behind-the-scenes persuasion for established musicians to persevere playing fan favourites night after night when there’s fresher material to be explored. But if Beck does find wheeling out the classics a chore, he’s been hiding it brilliantly for years now.

Tonight’s gig was only announced three days ago – following Sunday’s surprise show at London’s Omeara – and the sense of spontaneity heightens the excitement of an already extremely enthusiastic audience. Resplendent in a white dinner jacket and black Stetson, and surrounded by a fantastic, seven-piece band, Beck bills the show “a celebration” of his 13th studio album, ‘Colors‘, as well as a wake for the Grammy-winning ‘Morning Phase’. “We’re opening for ourselves tonight,” he explains at the end of opener ‘Blackbird Chain’, “So we’re gonna play a couple of songs from the last record, say goodbye to that and go into new territory.”

True to his word, the swooning, harmony-laden Americana of songs from ‘Morning Phase’ and ‘Sea Change’ is swiftly interrupted by a filthy, garage-rock rendition of ‘Devil’s Haircut’, drenched in red lighting. From there onwards, the energy levels scarcely dip. Though not summoning quite the same level of hysteria as room-shaking renditions of ‘Loser’, ‘E-pro’ and ‘The New Pollution’, ‘Nausea’ and ‘Think I’m In Love’ are particularly fine tonight, the latter segueing into ‘I Feel Love.’ During the encore, Beck interrupts a jubilant rendition of ‘Where It’s At’ – replete with body-popping – to allow his band to showcase their instruments with covers of songs by The Clash, Gary Numan and Talking Heads, plus a tribute to fellow Californian Tom Petty, whose music Beck credits as “capturing the place I came from.”

It’s a joy, too, to hear recent singles ‘Dreams’ and ‘Up All Night’ greeted as classics, and to see the entire room bounce during the live debut of ‘Colors” title track. And while it’s clear Beck needn’t rely on past glories, the fact he’s prepared to liberally dip into his back catalogue is emblematic of his generosity as a performer.

Beck @ Electric Ballroom, London, on Thursday 12 October 2017

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