| Beck | Roundhouse | 3 September 2014 |
Beck’s not one for standing still, his eclectic back catalogue leaping from hip-hop folk to psychedelic country via disco funk and indie rock. Tonight, in person, he’s equally mercurial, a livewire performer who, in the space of 75 minutes, embodies an aggressive punk kid (‘Novocane’), teen slacker (‘Loser’), tie-dyed fireside balladeer (‘Blue Moon’), sexed-up Prince circa 1982 (‘Debra’), foot-stomping busker-with-harmonica (‘One Foot In The Grave’), and roof-raising MC (the climactic finale ‘Where It’s At’). Without missing a beat. Or, seemingly, taking a breath.
It all begins with a hyperactive ‘Devil’s Haircut’, the singer bounding onto The Roundhouse stage alongside a band of multi-instrumentalists nimble enough to keep up with his musical mood swings. Together they groove and grind their way through lesser-known ‘Guero’ tracks ‘Black Tambourine’ and ‘Hell Yes’, turn up the ‘60s psychedelia with ‘New Pollution’, bring smiles and singalongs via sunny ‘Girl’, and get loud and playful on the gritty ‘E-Pro’.
It’s only during an unplugged detour – four delicate songs from the pensive ‘Sea Change’ and ‘Morning Phase’ albums – that the energy dissipates. On record, intimate new offerings ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Heart Is A Drum’, and ‘Wave’ are bolstered by woozy ‘70s soundscapes. But here, stripped of that dreamlike quality and without the built-in familiarity of old hits, they fail to make a real connection.
But that’s long forgotten by the time the band return for their final three songs. Kicked off by the criminally groovy ‘Sexx Laws’, the encore – and the show itself – reaches a crescendo as the crowd’s chants of “I’ve got two turntables and a microphone” almost drown out the set closer. For its ebullient duration, the Roundhouse really is where it’s at.