Last night, we were pleased to welcome Beck to the ACL stage for a wide-ranging set of classic hits and stellar new material from his acclaimed new LP Morning Phase. Opening with the riff-heavy rocker “Devil’s Haircut,” Beck and his crack band had the audience in the palm of its collective hand from the get-go. The skittering garage rock of “Black Tambourine” and the groovy rawk of “Think I’m in Love” – which cleverly interpolated Donna Summer’s disco gem “I Feel Love” – kept the party vibe going.
Beck strapping on his acoustic guitar signaled a shift in mood, confirmed by the gorgeous “Golden Age.” The band kept to the spirit of that Sea Change hit, digging deeply into Morning Phase, with attendant hits from other LPs. “Blackbird Chain,” “Don’t Let It Go” and “Blue Moon” proved that Beck’s bag of folk-pop melodies remains bottomless, and his incorporation of banjo in “Say Goodbye” and the anthemic build of “Waking Light” showed him willing to play with the formula. Not content simply to drop new material on the crowd, Beck also essayed takes on Sea Change’s “Lost Cause” and Mutations’ “Dead Melodies,” which fit right in.
After that sustained wave of shimmering beauty, it was time to pump the energy back up, which the groovy “Sissyneck” accomplished nicely. The whooshing rhythm ‘n’ psych gem “Soldier Jane” and the funky blues rocker “Soul of a Man” kept things vibrating, setting the stage for the Big Smash. The crowd went wild at the sound of the familiar slide lick that heralded “Loser,” as the band filled out the sparse original with psychedelic weirdness and Beck danced all over the stage. The frisky electropop of “Girl” and the noisy guitar fest of “E-Pro” brought the main set to a crashing close, with Beck and band on ending up on their back and literally crawling offstage.
But it wasn’t over yet. The musicians came back to redo a few of the Morning Phase songs with renditions even more beautiful than the first takes. The encore exploded to a close with Beck’s classic anthem “Where It’s At,” in an extended version that included audience call-and-response, Beck doing the electric slide with guitarist Smokey Hormel and bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen and a coda highlighting the singer’s harmonica showcase “One Foot in the Grave.” The crowd couldn’t have been happier, and we all wished we could have joined the band’s group hug.
Beck’s second performance for Austin City Limits – he first played the show in Season 28 in 2002 – was an exciting, dynamic showcase of talent, and we can’t wait for you to see it when the episode airs in the fall. Stay tuned!