Beck and MGMT at Roy Wilkins, September 30, 2008
Beck with MGMT Roy Wilkins, September 30 By Andrea Swensson Photos by Nick Vlcek
Ben Goldwasser of MGMT.
It's always unfortunate to watch a band completely hyped up by the blogosphere play a totally boring set to a large room full of unsuspecting people. Although MGMT's "Time to Pretend" has proved itself as a hipster anthem this past summer, with remixes of the single being played at every bar and club from here to the Lower East Side, their live presence continuously fails to engage their audiences or foreshadow any kind of staying power. They were tighter last night than they were when they previously came through town to play the Entry (a night that will live on in my mind as one of the worst shows I've ever seen), but their lackluster energy and seeming indifference toward the audience and their own songs makes them a tough act to root for.
I could go on, but I'll just get increasingly angry and start ranting about similarly overrated bands that I can't stand like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, so it's best to just move on to the main event.
Beck, with giant spotlight. Photo by Nick Vlcek.
Despite battling with terrible sound his entire set (his voice continued to get lost in the mix), Beck gave a fantastic performance, playing songs that spanned almost his whole recording career. The stage setup was sparse, with giant, old-fashioned Hollywood spotlights casting shadows from behind the band, and Beck wore a vintage suit and a wide-brimmed brown hat. He didn't waste any time trying to avoid songs he knew would please the audience, starting off with "Loser" and "Nausea" before working his way into songs from his new album, Modern Guilt. In fact, the entire set list was a masterful balance of songs old and new, which allowed him to keep up a strong momentum throughout the 90-minute performance.
The only part of the show that lost steam was a strange interlude in which Beck and his four backing musicians set down their instruments and put on miked headsets. Huddled at the front of the stage, the band fiddled with electronic devices as Beck rapped through the verses of "Hell Yes" and "Clap Hands" -- trouble was, his microphone wasn't picking up his voice, so the words were only audible when his backing musicians sang their harmony parts. It was an awkward moment and I was glad when the band returned to their normal instruments.
Photo by Nick Vlcek.
Next up was a strange and amusing cameo by a man named Jed, who Beck proclaimed to be the Twin Cities' finest tambourine player. Dressed in a blue workman's uniform, headband, and sunglasses, Jed bounded onto the stage to dance around and play tambourine on -- what else? -- "Black Tambourine."
Another highlight came toward the end of the regular set, as Beck performed a selection of his absolutely saddest songs. As a huge fan of Sea Change, this was my favorite part of the evening, especially "The Golden Age" and "Lost Cause." The band ramped things up one last time with "Where It's At," which had the entire audience pogo-ing in unison, before returning for an encore that included the first single off the new album, "Gamma Ray," and a fairly traditional, harmonica-laden cover of Bob Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat."
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