Beck is an unlikely rock and roll hero.
He slid onto the scene in 1994 with “Loser,” appearing such a caricature of the ’90s slacker on the surface you could miss what was going on underneath if you weren’t paying attention. He stuck around and experimented so wide-rangingly that by now it’s pretty much impossible to describe his “sound.”
Last night, he brought all his noise to a sold-out Armory, and while the party might not have gone all night, it was certainly enough to give the audience members plenty to talk about at work today.
The Voidz opened with a short and generally well-received set that—though there certainly was some awkward laughter in between songs. Moody and sometimes atonal, with Julian Casablancas’ vocals constantly digitally processing, the Voidz sound like Pink Floyd, Flaming Lips, and Joy Division all playing different songs at the same time. A couple of songs found a strong groove, and they rocked hard through the racket.
“This place is cool,” observed Casablancas of the Armory. “There is a quarter mile of bar on each wall. If you have trouble getting a drink, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
Beck took the stage in a stylish hat, and his best pink jacket, and hit the crowd directly in heart with a one-two punch of 1996’s “Devils Haircut” and the one that started the whole thing, “Loser.” The crowd lost its collective shit.
Introducing 1999’s “Mixed Bizness,” Beck implored the audience, “I have a formal request to the city of Minneapolis to take this a little higher.”The track featured Beck on guitar, a killer drum break, a false ending, and double-time reprise.
Last year’s “Colors,” one of the best examples of Beck seriously owning pop music, was the first song to feature lasers (is there anything better?), and its perfect mix of Talking Heads a Duran Duran was an early set highlight.
Beck involving the audience in his verbal shenanigans, giving a sly shout out to First Avenue that received cheers. “Is everyone gone?” Beck joked introducing the solo acoustic “Debra.” “I think it is just you and me.”
Each song elevated the party, and the crowd responded in turn, and it reached, if not fever, an eager pitch on the elastic, giant rock and roll of “I’m so Free.” Beck and his large and rocking band played a “French version” of 2002’s “Lost Cause,” based on the cover version by Phoenix.
“Any requests?” he asked. “This is the part where we do what we want.” Most of the band melted away, and light show disappeared as Beck opened an extended acoustic hootenanny up in front of the stage with his fellow guitar players.
He took a page “from the Purple scripture” and lovingly played “Take Me with U,” one of a number of Prince references throughout the evening. As the acoustic segment continued, Beck asked, “Are you OK just going with it? This is what we in the business call ‘pro level.’”He recalled a story of who we can only assume is super producer Rick Rubin rolling up to Beck’s house in a Rolls Royce playing a version of “Rowboat” recorded by Johnny Cash.
The rest of the band reappeared shortly thereafter, and resumed the big, flashy dance party. 2005’s “Girl” was groovy as hell.
“Are you ready to go home? Can I stay up with you all night?” Beck asked. Fittingly, 2017’s “Up All Night” then bounced off the Armory walls as it built into a massive pop anthem, and if 1999’s “Sexx Laws” galloped toward the finish line, 2005’s “E-Pro” thundered and thrashed over it.
Of course Beck wasn’t done yet. The encore opened with another song off last year’s Colors, “Wow,” which was all light sticks and jokes about Owen Wilson and possibly fictional people in attendance.
“How’s it going?” Beck asked. “What’s going on, Jenny? How are you, Ted?”
He told the crowd that he would like to go home, write some great new music, and come back to the Armory. “No promises, though, I might come back with a yacht rock record.”
With that, Beck launched “Where It’s At” from dock, including the longest band introductions of all time. The band played a snippet of a song for each band member. Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster” and the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” were among the songs that made appearances.
Beck rocked a harmonica on a short version of “One Foot in the Grave” before slamming it home with a reprise of “Where It’s At.” Everyone spilled out into the unseasonably warm night happy, possibly exhausted, but definitely looking forward to being the coolest person at work today.
The New Pollution
Que Onda Guero
Think I’m in Love
I’m So Free
Go It Alone
Lost Cause (acoustic)
Take Me with You (acoustic)
Say Goodbye (acoustic)
Blue Moon (acoustic)
Up All Night
Where it’s At
On Foot in the Grave
Where it’s At (reprise)
The crowd: I think I graduated college with most of these folks.
Overhead in the crowd: “I don’t give a shit about Beck,” said exactly one Voidz fan walking away after the opening set.
Random notebook dump: The Armory is a nice place. If the bands are a no-show, I feel like I could get a train ticket to Hogwarts if I wanted.