Beck has been posited as a virtual mannish poster boy for the slacker generation, but the tag belies the thought and effort he puts into his writing, recording and, now especially, performing.
After a James Brown-like intro at his Universal Amphitheatre show, the singer appeared in a pale tight suit and bounded into “Devils Haircut,” his own new blues and a cut from his latest album, “Odelay.”
The show, or more aptly revue, featured: staging and lighting that blended new wave with psychedelia; a mini-JB backing band that whipped horns, guitar, bass and propulsive drumming with a very active DJ and Beck’s own guitar and harmonica; and a rainbow-coalition repertoire of hip-hop mixed with folk, liquefied with blue-eyed soul, chopped with funk, distilled with honky-tonk and beaten with rock.
It also featured Beck’s frenetic testifyin’ one moment and moonwalking the next, only to be countered with an earnest folk solo later and a big-band bow at the end.
Beck Hansen has made a giant leap since his appearance at the Troubadour nearly three years ago to the day. It, too, admittedly sold out (with the quirky “Loser” from his DGC debut “Mellow Gold” pricking up many an ear), but most in the club were left head-scratchin’ (and not head-noddin’) by his rambling, oddball delivery.
Yet in the interim, the artist currently known as Beck is now “Where It’s At,” seemingly singlehandedly tapping into the zeitgeist of the neo-retro deconstructionist movement (though a fair amount of credit for his platinum-plus, Grammy-winning disc “Odelay” goes to co-producers the Dust Brothers).
It’s not often that a critical darling meets with such ardor from mainstream record-buying youths (isn’t that concept up there with “jumbo shrimp”?). But when 1996’s across-the-board artist of the year (Spin, Rolling Stone, NME) had the filled venue of kids from L.A. proper, Orange County, West Coast, East Coast, even the Valley ‘burbs of North Hollywood and Glendale representin’, one could tell this was hardly a mere oxymoron at work — perhaps the opposite. An octagenius?