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ISSUE 119 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 9/30/2005

Beck shows signs of fatigue: St. Paul concert lacks musician's usual gusto

By Jennifer Hancock
Contributing Writers

Friday, September 30, 2005

Beck sauntered into St. Paul's Roy Wilkins Auditorium this past Monday, Sept. 19, with his merry band of "spazoids" bent on taking Minnesota by storm. While I didn't leave feeling swept, the show undoubtedly proved one thing: Beck - born Beck Hansen - knows how to make an audience boogie.

McRorie Tait, a one-man band, opened the show. Tait played drums using foot sensors. At times, he beat the sensors on his chest like a clothed Canadian gorilla to imitate drum solos. He played keyboard guitar with one hand and keyboard-bass with the other.

Tait's songs covered typical rock-rebel territory: partying, partying as a form of rebellion and, well, partying even more after you rebel. In short, Tait was the coolest middle-aged, stoner-in-a-kilt that I've seen play live.

After Tait's 20 minute set, Beck himself came out. Dressed like a computer programming cowboy, he took the stage with a reworked version of "Black Tambourine," from his latest album, Guero. It sounded great but technical failures and poor acoustics resulted in incomprehensible vocals.

Despite the problems, the band picked up steam through old favorites like "Devil's Haircut," "New Pollution" (both off of 1996's Odelay) and the new single, "Girl." Next, Beck treated long-time fans with a new version of "Hot Wax," also from Odelay, which was worked over with an extended blues guitar solo.

Odelay seemed to be the word of the night as Beck played about half of the album, including fan-favorite "Sissyneck." Beck also played a good mix of his back catalogue, with "Nicotine and Gravy" and "Truckdrivin Neighbors Downstairs" off Midnite Vultures and Mellow Gold respectively, and more recent songs off his 2002 release, Sea Change.

That doesn't mean Beck ignored the new tracks from Guero, however. His band of exuberant misfits tore through the crowd favorite, "Que Onda Guero," while one of Beck's percussionists danced like a robot having a seizure at the front of the stage.

The show grew progressively stranger throughout the night, but that's a good thing at a Beck show. Former tour mates The Flaming Lips clearly imparted a love of the theatrical on Mr. Hansen. Throughout the entire show, band members danced energetically across the stage and played bizarre instruments. At one point Beck played something that looked like a steamer trunk, accordion hybrid.

The climax of the evening was supposed to be a solo jam by Beck. The band left him center stage, brought out a table, sat down and had a snack while Beck attempted to play his heart out on a mix of original songs and covers. This idea fell flat when Beck tryed to play a puzzling "Debra"/R. Kelly medley. Luckily, the band bailed him out when he started playing "Nobody's Fault But My Own." The band members, still on the table, rose and stomped their feet in time to the beat while playing little drum fills on their water goblets, fruit gourds and plates.

After the band's rescue mission, the show closed up strongly. "E-Pro," the first single from Guero, along with "Where It's At" and "Mixed Bizness" all made it into the set. A hoard of raging fans swarmed the stage during "Mixed Bizness," several of whom appeared to be trying to take the band members home with them.

Overall, Beck seemed to lack focus and motivation. He mumbled through lyrics that can be heard clearly on the album, and did very little of the dancing that marked his past concerts. From the front row, a little bit of Beck's tongue could be seen poking out of his mouth as he concentrated really hard on hitting the right notes on his guitar. It seemed to indicate Beck is still perfecting the difficult Guero guitar parts.

Despite lacking some of the musical tightness of his contemporaries, The Flaming Lips and The White Stripes, his unusual stage show made the concert worthwhile. After all, the spectacle of a 15-foot ghetto blaster speaker coming down from the ceiling would bring a smile to anyone's face.

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