Beck with the Flaming Lips
Chicago Theater, October 18, 2002
Beck may be our generation’s greatest songwriter and best hope for sneaking good music into the mainstream culture of America. But his show Friday night at the Chicago Theater left a lot to be desired.
Now don’t think I’m one of these radio-come-latelies who only wanted to hear “Loser” and “Devil’s Haircut” (both of which he played along with his other hits, “Where It’s At,” “The New Pollution,” and “Jack-Ass”). I would have been happier if he dug deeper into his freaky catalog; as it was, he only played one song (Stereopathetic Soulmanure‘s “One Foot in the Grave”) from any of his early, independent releases.
My main beef with his set was the pacing. All wrong. I consider myself a pretty fucking hardcore Beck fanatic, but he had me scratching my head in frustration as he would build up a bit of rock and roll momentum and then drop the ball. I’ve got no problem with slow songs. If he wanted to make this his “Tonight’s the Night” tour and creep out all of his mainstream fans by only playing songs that nobody knew, I’d understand and think it was neat. But that’s not at all what he did.
See for yourself. Here’s the setlist:
1. Cold Brains (guitar)
2. One Foot In The Grave (harmonica)
3. Guess I’m Doing Fine (guitar)
4. Sunday Morning (vocoder synth)
WITH THE LIPS:
5. The Golden Age
7. Lord Only Knows
8. The New Pollution
9. Lost Cause
10. It’s All In Your Mind
11. We Live Again
12. Lonesome Tears
13. End Of The Day
14. Get Real Paid
16. Nobody’s Fault But My Own (solo with harmonium)
17. Little One
18. Round The Bend
20. Pay No Mind
21. Paper Tiger
22. Where It’s At
23. Devil’s Haircut
If you are familiar with these songs you’ll notice that after he plays one or at most two fun songs, he immediately drops back to one of his dirgey, acoustic songs. This isn’t a problem with the songs themselves, but the order of the setlist. Maybe I’m a completely anal dictator, but this set clearly would have been improved by dividing it up into three chunks: the solo set, the acoustic band set, and finally the funky disco/rock set.
Before you call me a shallow poser, notice that it’s not like he wasn’t playing any of his “fun” songs. He played “Loser” for crying out loud! But to break up that “Jack-Ass/Pay No Mind” build-up with the funereal “Paper Tiger” was enough to make me want to smash Beck’s acoustic guitar over my own head.
The saving grace throughout the set was the Flaming Lip’s Wayne Coyne, who was obviously so excited to be up on stage with Beck that his joy was contagious. It made it even more criminal that the Lips’ opening set was cut short just after a half-hour.
I’m certain Beck’s set will improve as this tour goes on and things get worked out and tightened up. It’s just too bad that the show I happened to catch was only the third one they played on this tour. Hopefully, they’ll get their act together and come back around.