Tears were welling up in my eyes just one song into Beck’s live set for KCRW last night.
He started with “The Golden Age” off “Sea Change” then segued beautifully into three tracks from his new album “Morning Phase”, which is not only one of the best records of the year, but possibly one of his best overall. (It is also considered a companion to “Sea Change”, with a similar emotional resonance, sense of melancholy and stunning harmonies)
As Beck told host Jason Bentley later in the evening, there is a “power in commitment to a certain kind of song.” He talked about the importance of quieter albums because “they aren’t yelling at you like the rest of the world is.”
It’s true. This world is a noisy place — in just about every way — and “Morning Phase” cuts through that static and right to your heart with pure musical beauty.
That said, Beck is so good at crafting thoughtful, introspective, meditative songs that it’s easy to forget just how much fun he is.
And last night, at Apogee Studio with famed producer/mixer Bob Clearmountain at the board, he had fun – letting loose alongside musicians he’s been playing with for a good chunk of his career.
They were in great form, even though they had only played many of the new songs live a few times before this evening. In fact, this was their first LA show behind the new album.
Beck was enjoying the hometown crowd and was chatty between songs, even suggesting we get a “Santa Monica mosh pit” going because we are “south of Montana. Hard core sh*t.” (Only Angelenos will get that joke).
After finishing the set with a few more “Sea Change”/”Morning Phase” standouts — “Waking Light”, ”Lost Cause”, and “Blue Moon” — they began a truly epic encore.
From “Think I’m in Love” they moved seamlessly into Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love “ (Beck tells us that’s how he discovered synths for the first time), before warning the first three rows that it was about to get loud.
They started a raucous version of “Devil’s Haircut”, followed by “Soul of a Man” and “Black Tambourine”, which seemed to start with the drum opener to Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and continued with LOTs of cowbell, unlike the version on “Guero”.
Next was “Sissyneck” from “Odelay“, during which Justin Meldal-Johnsen started playing a bassline we all recognized.
Beck stopped the band and pointed it out, launching into Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”, complete with falsetto yelps, dance moves (though he couldn’t get the jacket flare quite right) and the entire audience singing along. He joked that the band plays “bar mitzvahs, christenings, weddings and funerals.”
I know I would be taking a lot of liberties in comparing Beck to Michael Jackson, but how many artists currently living and making music can span as many genres as LA’s native son?
From hip hop to country rock and everything in between, there’s really nothing Beck can’t do.
Not only was I super excited to hear his new material live, pretty much every song in his arsenal was met with excitement. He has a vast catalogue of great tunes and really could do no wrong.
This was Beck’s first radio performance behind the new record and you can hear the full session on Morning Becomes Eclectic on Wednesday, April 23.
KCRW’s Apogee Sessions featuring Beck – Set List
Blackbird Chain *
Say Goodbye *
Don’t Let It Go *
Waking Light *
Blue Moon *
Think I’m in Love -> I Feel Love
Soul of a Man
Sissyneck (mid-song/Billie Jean interlude)
*off the new album “Morning Phase”
Justin Meldal-Johnsen Bass / Keys / Vocals
Joey Waronker Drums
Roger Manning Keys / Banjo / Vocals
Smokey Hormel Guitar / Vocals
William “Gus” Seyffert Guitar / Keys / Vocals