Beck – [Live]

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Sometimes when I read reviews from other publications to check some of my facts, I often wonder if we were actually at the same show. One pub’s writer stated, “At the Aragon however, [Beck] made the choice to destroy all expectations and flog his songs until there was blood.” I have to be honest, I’ve seen Beck about 6 times and of the 6, this was my least favorite, but the other 5 just happened to be absolutely amazing and all were in his hometown of Los Angeles—home field advantage. The first two were his solo acoustic sets for Sea Change and the other 3 were full-band tours that followed, which included more shenanigans than you can shake a stick at. This show didn’t have dancing dudes, puppet shows, dinner table jams sessions or The Flaming Lips, but it did have Beck.

What Beck was up against reminded me of a high school basketball team playing the Lakers. The venue, Chicago’s very own Aragon, actually sounded like Beck was playing in the aforementioned high school gym at half time. I walked in this gargantuan venue feeling like I accidentally stepped into Medieval Times and was actually waiting for the blue knight to pop out and call for his fair lady. The place had a kickin’ Viking theme going and the entire venue resembled a kingdom’s courtyard. There were blue and gold canopies, large flanks of wood and the best part, six huge Viking swords crowning the stage. And if you looked up at the ceiling there were actual twinkling stars mixed with a few of Thor’s fireballs for good measure. So take the most ridiculous venue and perhaps the worst sound ever and you got Beck vs. Goliath.

It’s not to say the crowd wasn’t into it. I had to shoot photos and was all over the venue and people were flipping their lids before and during the show. I was standing toward the back and people were dancing and drinking and I didn’t see a whole lot of frowns, that’s for certain. As Loki as my witness, when Beck launched into “Loser,” the crowd sounded like they’ve been waiting a lifetime to hear him play that song—as well as 20+ others.

It was a definitely hits night for Beck, playing songs that stemmed the last decade and a half of his all-over-the-map career.  Some of the highlights for me were “Girl,” “Chemtrails,” the digi-disco grooves of “Hell Yes,” and of course when he stopped for a second, grabbed his acoustic and played “The Golden Age” and “Lost Cause.” I’m definitely a sucker for the Mutations and Sea Change albums, but in a venue like this where you’re not sitting down, you’re susceptible to a few douchebags slow dancing as if they were at their Viking-themed prom in 1992. Would it have been wrong for me to stab them in the neck with my pen? Perhaps. But it doesn’t mean I didn’t want to.

Beck got the band back out there and dropped “Where It’s At,” which included a very odd call and response with the crowd. Beck: “Sergio Valente!” Crowd: Sergio Valente!” Beck: “Jordache jeans!” Crowd: “Jordache jeans!” Beck: ”Ooh-la-la Sassoon!” Crowd: ”Ooh-la-la Sassoon!” The kids might not have a clue what they were yelling back to him, but unfortunately I did. And I swear I saw the goddess Freya came out to see if there was a sale.

Beck split for a few and so did a few of people in the crowd. Getting in wasn’t exactly easy, so I’m sure they were preparing for the worst. He came back out for a solid encore, including “Novacane” and a Dylan cover, “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat,” and the night was over. Overall I thought Beck did a good job considering the circumstances. Odin plagued him with a terrible venue and some horrible sound and sometimes you just get frustrated and lose some of your soul. No, he didn’t talk to the crowd much, but neither did Sigur Ros and no one blamed them. He just played with his bare-bones band and made the most of a real bad situation.


“Chemtrails” from Modern Guilt – [mp3]
“Gamma Ray from Modern Guilt – [mp3]

Modern Guilt is out now. Buy it on

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