Beck, the prevailing copy-and-paste pop artist of the 1990s, brought his genre-splicing act to the sold-out Greek on Friday for the first of two Los Feliz shows. But while he and his 10-piece band threw a post-modern soul party high on retro stimulus, the detached party host never quite connected with the invited guests.
As the songs on Beck’s albums grow increasingly sarcastic and feature less of the quasi-naive humor that made such early hits as “Loser” so irresistible, his concerts have tumbled from the free-spirited celebrations of a couple years ago to what feels more and more like pointless self-indulgence, making for a show that’s more difficult to enjoy than it should be.
The production, featuring sleazy uptown disco affectations like giant mirror balls and bell bottom jeans, opened promisingly enough with a cover of rapper Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” that quickly segued into Beck’s absurd 1994 track “Beercan.”
But the rest of the 19-song set, unfortunately, favored the faux soul and funk songs found on Beck’s 1999 release “Midnight Vultures” (DGC). New songs like “Hollywood Freaks” and “Nicotine & Gravy,” featuring big grooves and myriad sound effects, were flawlessly delivered by the big band. But none of the individual songs, all chock full of clever word play and junk culture references, left any sort of mark.
Even the sinister and always entertaining “your sister looks good, too” sentiments of the R&B rave “Debra,” long a live Beck concert staple, were hard to swallow when watching Beck writhe around on a bed that had been lowered from above the stage, a poor tribute to Prince and his late ‘80s “Lovesexy” tour.
Further highlights of the 90-minute perf included a late-set acoustic portion featuring the blues harp-fueled “One Foot in the Grave,” as well as an encore that boasted the undeniable Motown pop of “Sexx Laws” — one of the rare moments of genius on “Midnight Vultures” — and the bluesy oldie “Devil’s Haircut.”