Newly crowned slacker rock hero Beck wrapped up his first national club tour in Southern California recently but left unanswered the question of whether this mannish hip-hop folk-boy is a flash-in-the-pan, as many critics suggest.
Or is the 23-year-old Beck, whose DGC debut, “Mellow Gold,” is firmly entrenched in the top 25 of the album chart, a promising and talented composer whose decidedly left-of-center musical style indicates a singer-songwriter with lots of interesting things to say with his music?
The jury’s still out on that one. “Loser,” the current gold-certified, top-20 slacker anthem (so named because of the music’s almost lazy style), scored at this show because of its refreshingly uncontrived nature and unpolished, too-casual delivery.
Other songs, such as the droll “Bogus Foe” and the somber, ugly dirge “Blackhole,” were an exercise in audience patience as our hero delivered lyrical forays that were rambling but dynamic and filled with nonsensical references and buffoonish tales.
So take him or leave him; it seems he couldn’t care less either way. When the crowd started shouting out ridiculous ’70s song requests (“Free Bird”, “Stairway to Heaven”), Beck responded by singing and playing the beginning of “2112,” by that famed anti-slacker band Rush.
When fans started singing the chorus to “Loser,” he changed the song’s catch phrase, for no apparent reason, from “I’m a loser, baby/why don’t you kill me” to “I’m a softie, baby/why don’t you squeeze me.”
Not your typical major-label artist (he even sells unreleased music at his concerts; this night it was $ 6 cassettes titled “Midgets Rule”), but then Beck has stated his firm intention to forever remain true to himself and his music, commercial considerations be damned.
It seems doubtful that a musician this far from the beaten path needs to worry about the downfalls of extended fame.