Friday, April 15, 2005

Beck; The Maritime Hotel

When did Beck get old? Or rather, was he ever young?

I guess the second question is a bit off-base: I wasn't old enough to appreciate his "Loser" youth. But that he is one of the few artists to survive the mid-90s has made him somewhat an elder statesman, unrelated to actual maturity level or age. There's also his comparitively private personal and his weird scientology (repressed homosexuality?) which make him a more distant character. Then there was 2002's Sea Change, a remarkably mature piece. And by mature I mean slow.

As age is inevitably the end of massive exposure, it has severe consequences for Beck's career. It's not always that he will grace the April edition of Filter. And without the pretty boy persona: record a classic or fade away.

Beck's Guero is itself a sign of age, in that it's largely self-reverential. It's unfair to stop there; "Girl," "Que Ondo Guero," and "Hells Yes" are all great songs, even if the latter garners unfortunate comparison to "Where It's At." The rest of the album shows signs of wear, capitalized by first single "E-Pro" and its tired "na-na-na" chorus.

I was out shopping when I get a phone call from Abbe. She had entered a contest at Tower, one of those stupid things you should never really enter for fear of harassment from advertisers, and won two tickets to the "secret" show publicized on his web site the night before.

Timeline:

0630: Arrive, wait on line. We'd thought doors were at 0600, so that we'd be fabulously late. Clearly not.

0645: It grows colder.

0700: We plot to kill Beck.

0715: They finally open the doors. We enter Hiro, and we get it. Asian themed. The stage is a horrible wooden facade, with a dragon spewing smoke from its eyes and mouth. Stereotypes abound. Innumberable paper lanterns. Nonsense Japanese script on the walls. Stereotypes abound. Red walls and faux-bamboo mezzanine. Stereotypes abound, albeit confused ones.

0730: We're in the second row, and some jealous bitches complain about the presence of my messenger bag. I call them ugly cunts, and I'm right on.

0815: Roadies aimlessly wander about the stage, my feet are killing, and I'm revising my plan to kill Beck.

0845: Beck goes on. He is a tiny little man in his army boots, relaxed jeans, white tee and green army jacket. Looks young straight-on, not so much by profile. He sleepwalks through the beginning of the set, although the aforementioned excellent songs are excellent. His meek stage presence is redeemed by dancer Brian, who touches his stomach and does the robot throughout the set. A star is born.

Beck throws in "Devil's Haircut" and--thank god!--"Nicotine and Gravy" and "Where It's At" which is proficient but at this stage in the game seems like routine. Beck wakes up for the raps, although his voice isn't as distinct as it is recorded.

1000: Fifteen songs and much awkward dancing later, we go to Mary Ann's on 8th and 15th for miserable but non-ID check margaritas, bizarre service and some delish quesadillas.

Addendum: I love you Beck. And your tiny show was gracious and appreciated. But a show is a show is a show. Stay pretty forever.

5 Comments:

Blogger moksha2791 said...

My firends dragged me to see Beck in 1994 at Irving Plaza before I knew who or what he was... Thank the Rockn' Roll Gods that I went. The show began with Beck sliding on stage in a seventies style suit and an afro wig. In my world, this show is still the best I've ever seen from him... Mellow Gold, One Foot In The Grave, and Earlier.
Now, he's grown up or matured as the critics say. I will never abandon him as a fan but I'm starting to feel uneasy. He is inevitably maturing, but that alone does not justify his straying too far from the kernel that is Beck- Or has always been until the last few years. I have never been a fan of his setlists so that was expected. But after seeing him do Town Hall on the brief Mutations tour, which in my opinion was a landmark show, he has arrived in 2004-5 as the soundtrack for The O.C. That sucks! Like I said, maturity- Hell Yes! But Selling Out, That is truly disappointing. The move from Sea Change to Guero has included some alternate universe where I got to see Beck in a small venue like The Hiro ballroom where he thrives! a secret show! A great sound system, very clear & crisp! Then it happened- Beck was pedestrian- I hardly felt any of the emotional connections that I have been accustomed to at a Beck show. For me, It seems that Beck has truly gone down a path in a parallel universe where his music has become boring, not so impressive, and not very creative. This new universe finds a fish out of water and like all of us, he doesn't seem to know there was any water to be away from- This all sucks! I want my Beck back.... unsatisfied, irreverent, deep, and maybe a little angry. It seems like he wants to be a rock star now with songs like E-pro and his distorted guitar sans a rhythm guitarist- he is just not able to carry a whole band. I admit it, lock me away in the pompous ctitic's drawer. I miss the Beck that he acknowledges by often saying,' Takin it back to 95' or 93' or 97'. I don't ask for repetition or back stepping, but I hope for retaining that kernel that to me is Beck's musical soul. Screw the arena's and take me back to 94' when the music mattered most, and maturation was in the house. After all, he was growing then too. Growing older doesn't guarantee nor call for becoming a pussy. Growing Up is what I find interesting, and growing up takes place every second, and growing up allows a kernel to become popcorn- but not a pop musician. Beck You Rule!

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whiner, at least you got to see Beck at such a tiny venue.

9:31 PM  
Blogger moksha2791 said...

Yeah, I suppose it was whiney... just my gut reactions, but you're right, Beck at tiny venue is best Beck there is!

11:02 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

the size of the venue is immaterial given a good enough performance. if an artist is to "treat" his fans to a special show (and especially if he makes the nasty nerds wait out in the cold for over an hour), he/she can expect that those who have followed the music closest would be those best-equipped to judge a lazy performance.

3:42 AM  
Blogger moksha2791 said...

I definitely disagree about the venue being immaterial and subordinate to the 'nature' of the show. I haven't been to tons of Beck shows but I have seen him in multiple venues... N.Y. Supper Club-(which is super small)-on the Odelay Tour; N.Y Irving Plaza-(which I consider small, and average size for his indoor gigs)-on Mellow Gold Tour; Philly Electric Factory for Odelay like Irving Plaza size; Mutations Short Tour, Towne Hall In N.Y.-( a great venue like radio city though smaller I think); Lollapalooza, NY, The Free Tibet Festival in San Francisco, I think 96' or 97; The Spectrum In Philly for some Krock like Festival; That's pretty much it. I can say with confidence that the venues are truly not immaterial, really far from it- It's pretty accurate that a 'good enough' show can make-up for other negatives, but my main point is that part of the show being 'good enough' can often be related to the size & nature of the venue. Sometimes, the venue itself lends a hand in making a performance good enough. At certain venues, at certain times of the year, a show can take place that is overall thrilling for a fan. So a venue is never immaterial- it is another part of the whole experience, and I have found that as the venues change so does the performance seem different every time... Beck always does his thing and a good performance is only an average one so your guaranteed that. A great performance, one to remember always relies on other factors than the qualities of good & bad. At the Supper Club, I was close to him as he rocked out in a Captain's uniform & hat... At Philly I could hardly see him and the sound wasn't for me to hear but listen for... I saw the TRadio City Show on Valentine's day, and the spectacle was a waste (in my mind) compared to the San Francisco Tibet Show when he came on stage solo and told us his band wasn't there b/c his drummer had broken his arm. The sunny day- 50,000 people, and I'm close enough to see Beck with a guitar and a little casio keyboard... he was going off on one of his rants & got everyone to sing,' Sergio Valente,' It was just before Odelay, and it was funny cause it seemed like 49,000 were thinking what the hell is going on? Beck alone on a big stage in the middle of Golden Gate State Park on a beautiful afternoon- You better believe the venue is part of the show; Beck at Towne Hall, by himself on a stage. I sat with my sister in the second row of the balcony- Cold Brains, Nobody's Fault But My Own, and most of Mutations, One Foot In The Grave- best harmonica of his shows I've seen. The acoustics of a theatre- Cold Brains, etc. Do you wonder if certain songs sound different in certain venues. Yes, most definitely. I can go on, and I have not written this much as a retort- But It's been nice that you guys have made me remember all those good times, and why Beck's music touches me so personally. I'm really having fun recounting these days. Peace, Bret

6:55 PM  

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