Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Beck Concert Review 2014

As Beck’s tour comes to a close I wanted to post a review of the shows I saw in Charlotte and Asheville, NC on July 11th and 12th.  Before this concert, the only albums that I had of Beck’s were Mutations, Odelay, and Midnight Vultures.  I played the hell out of the Midnight Vultures album and thought it was amazing, but I never ventured to buy anything else. 

I originally went to the concert to see the keyboard player, Roger Manning, because the opportunity doesn’t come around that often to see him live.  (Come on - admit it, you’ve gone to a show not for the headline name before)  Even though I wasn’t necessarily going to see Beck, I knew I would be entertained because I enjoy Mr. Hansen’s music and I knew his supporting cast was amazing in their own right…what I didn’t know was just how great it would be. 

Beck makes great music and his albums are thoroughly entertaining, but when you see him live it’s a whole new ballgame - it's on another level.  What a step up in intensity the concert was compared to the already amazing albums.  After both shows I made some CDs mimicking the order of the set lists.  Listening to the CDs is an enjoyable experience on its own – the songs kick ass, the flow was there just like the concert, but man, it gives you a great perspective on how good that live show really is.  It’s very difficult to put into words how much he elevates his music in a live setting – you have to experience it for yourself.  Beck is a true showman.

The Set List

Speaking of the set list, there was a great flow to the concert, the band came out of the gate swinging with "Devil's Haircut" and bunch of upbeat hits and then slowed it down and brought out some more mellow cuts.  Then, for the final phase of the concert, they kicked off the fireworks with E-Pro and just cranked through to the end.  When the show is over you’re left literally wanting more – and that’s how you know they did such a damn good job that night.  This is one of those shows that if you’re with someone or a group of people you’re going to walk out of the concert going “Awe man did you hear/see when…” or “That was crazy when….”.  It’s just like leaving an awesome movie and immediately you and your friends start quoting bits from the movie because it left such an impression on you.

The Atmosphere On Stage

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a concert and seen all of the performers having such a great time.  These guys were smiling and laughing with each other, yet still working their ass off and it made for a really, really enjoyable experience.  The last thing you want to experience at a concert is some artist you just paid your hard earned cash to see live have a pissing bad time.  I understand things can go wrong, and I get that that can be frustrating.  I’ve seen artists kick their amps, stomp their feet in hissy fits yelling at the sound engineer because their monitors weren’t quite right, guitars thrown because the sound was coming out horribly...again I get that everyone has a bad night once in a while – but when you see these guys on stage tearing it up AND having a hell of a good time too – it just enhances the experience.  I can’t say enough about it – it literally puts a smile on your face.  In fact, during the Asheville concert I noticed while Justin Meldal-Johnsen was playing the Korg MS20 and then a bit later Jason Falkner, the synth was not performing the way that it should – and these guys handled it brilliantly.  For the average concert goer, they’re not going to notice it (Especially the guy that was rocking out to the air drums about 8 seats to my right).  But they didn’t freak out, or yell at the keyboard tech and handled it beautifully like true professionals should.

The Gear

The first thing I do when I go to a concert is walk up to the stage and check out the gear (Alight so I'm looking at the keyboard rigs).  I had been catching all of the TV performances on Kimmel, SNL, etc. so I knew there was going to be some cool gear up there.  To my surprise, not only did Manning bring out the Jupiter 8, but a Prophet 10 as well!  Then walking to the other side of the stage you see Justin’s rig set up with a Prophet 5 and a Korg MS20. Rounding out the keyboard rigs Gus had a Farfisa, Moog Sub Phatty, and an Arp String Ensemble.  I don’t know how many people will know what kind of instruments these guys are using on this tour.  Probably very few, and perhaps they won’t care – or at least, they won’t think so.  But it's these very specific instruments that make the connection between the audience and the music in ways they might not know, or think about – but they definitely will feel it and that’s all that matters.  Thanks guys, for making the effort because it can definitely be felt. 

Song Highlights

“Think I’m In Love / I Feel Love”

The Jupiter 8 is the star of the song here.  When they break into “I Feel Love” and the bass line is pounded out on the Jupiter you feel it through your whole body.  There is, what I can only describe as, “a thump” in your chest and it elevates the song and lets you connect to the music in a way that crosses over from the audible into the physical.  I can’t tell you how that heightens the experience.  I haven't felt bass like that at a concert since Keith Emerson shook the Palace of Auburn Hills in '96.  When I drove to Asheville to see the show the next day, I got there a little early and made friends with a couple of guys that I ended up sitting next to.  When the song came on – I told the guy next to me to watch when “I Feel Love” came on.  He put his hand on his chest and said, “Oh My God! I feel it in my chest”.  Yeah, I know you do.  You wouldn’t think so, but the difference between an analog synth and a sample or virtual analog is unreal.

“Ghettochip Malfunction (Hell Yes) 8 Bit Remix”

Here again, we have an analog synth driving the bass line and this time it’s a Korg Ms20 played by Justin.  Meanwhile Manning is playing the keyboard run over it on the JP-8.  Again, wow – what an added dynamic to the song that just adds to the depth of the performance.  How can you not get juiced hearing these things in the flesh?

“Where It’s At”

At the end of the show Beck introduces the band during “Where It’s At” and after the introduction of each member they get about a half a minute or so to do their thing.  Justin broke into “Good Times”, while Jason Falkner morphed his bit into “Miss You” by the Stones and the whole band joined in on that one.  When Beck gets to Manning, he starts playing a kickin’ little riff on the prophet 10 and once again, you really feel the thick bass of the Prophet .  Beck even mentions during the little performance, “…this is Roger, he’s playing a Prophet 10, the Prophet 5 wasn’t good enough, this is a Prophet 10”.


Beck sells it on this one.  He just goes all in and, I don’t know why, but it reminds me of Peter wolf doing “Raputa da Buta” when he’s doing his thing during “Debra” - it’s thoroughly entertaining to watch this. 

The Genius of Beck

What you come to realize is that although Beck makes great records and the way he carves his own path through musical genres is brilliant, the true genius of beck shines in his ability to put a band together - it's amazing.  Like any great CEO or leader, he surrounds himself with amazing talent.  This unit is so tight it’s unbelievable.  Joey, Jason, Justin, Smokey, Gus, and Roger all work great together, they make him look amazing and it sells the whole show - and that is the secret to his sauce.  (Not to mention they are all really nice guys.  I was fortunate enough to meet them after the Asheville show and I can’t tell you how nice they all were.)

Was it worth the price of admission? 

Hell Yes.  There's a few more dates left and if he's in your area - go see this show!  Even if you aren’t familiar with his music or even like his music, you WILL be entertained...period.  Myself, I was so entertained it converted me from a casual Beck fan to a full on Beck fan and I went to Amazon and bought all the albums that I didn’t have – ‘nuff said.

Thanks for Reading

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