Beck at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Beck at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA, November 24th, 2013

Nov 26, 2013 Beck Bookmark and Share

“If you have a wife, a job, and a car, you don’t have time for Beck” Jonathan Gold told the audience at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on Sunday night. The Los Angeles food critic was recounting a conversation he had a with a friend about twenty years ago—roughly the time that Beck was bringing a leaf blower on stage and declaring himself to be a loser (baby). But the anecdote, delivered between Beck-penned songs performed by pals Jarvis Cocker, Jenny Lewis, Childish Gambino among others, served to highlight a larger point. The once outsider musician has come a lot way…baby.

The cast of notables (which also included musicians such as John C. Riley, Becky Stark, Jack Black, and actress-turned-singer Anne Hathaway), had assembled to perform Beck’s Song Reader—a collection of musical pieces released only as sheet music. As implied by the name, (which brings to mind the usual quaint Americana associated with Prairie Home Companion), the majority of the night’s performance was dedicated to charming wholesome entertainment. Well, save for Jack Black, who dropped both his pants and the f-bomb with equal enthusiasm. (But wouldn’t we be disappointed if he hadn’t?)

In between songs, where Jarvis Cocker performed a peacock-worthy strut to “Why Did You Make Me Care?,” Jenny Lewis and Anne Hathaway broke hearts with “Last Night You Were a Dream,” and rapper Childish Gambino unveiled a velvet tenor on “Please Leave the Light on When You Go,” a series of local luminaries waxed poetic about their experiences with music. Among the standouts were comedian Tig Notaro, who reminisced about her sixth grade class’ lack of patience with the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” an a short film by Christian Robinson, where children’s responses to questions like, “What do your parents listen to?” (“Classical music…like Madonna.”) were animated to hilarious affect. But for the most part the guest speakers felt a bit like filler—and not quite enough of at that, as the audience was forced to sit in darkness as performers and equipment was shifted on and off the stage. (A sign of boredem, even the rodies got applause at one point.)

Still for all its awkward moments, it was difficult not to engage in the performance. With his father David Campbell at the baton directing the 61-piece orchestra, was a family affair. And like any good all-ages event, it offered something for everyone, from the lushly composed and goofily executed orchestral piece “Mutilation Rag,” to Beck’s solo Woody Guthrie-inspired tune, “America, Here’s My Boy,” to a group sing-along/affirmation that life is more than an exercise in futility.

Sure it was a sedate evening, far more than we’ve come to expect from the singer/songwriter. But given Beck’s wildly varying output over the years, from heartsick troubadour, to jobless slacker, to electronic prince and back again, can we really fault him this new guise? If this is growing up, one could certainly stand to do a lot worse.



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