Beck at the Echo, June 9.
Photos and text by Jeff Miller
At this point, it's a foregone conclusion: when a Beck tour's on the horizon, he'll invariably test out his band at some small club on the Eastside, braying through new material and old-school classics while taking his lucky (but pretending-to-be-disinterested) audience on an unexpected sonic exploration or two. A few months ago, it happened at a career-spanning, obscurity-revelling experimentathon at the Echoplex, but last night at the Echo was all about Beck getting back to basics, casting aside the obscure instruments (Mellotron!) and picking up a guitar to '90s-rock his way into the not-quite-packed audience's heart.
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He wasted no time getting to the new stuff: following a straight-ahead rip of "Devil's Haircut," and a slightly psychy "Think I'm in Love," Beck debuted "Modern Guilt" and "Gamma Ray," two modular songs from his forthcoming album (rumored for an any-day-now digital release.) His new band -- buoyed by familiar-looking local musicians like songwriter Jessica Dobson -- shined the unfamiliar songs on with noisy guitar lines and clattering percussion, but none of them quite coalesced until the drums-and-bassy "Replica," a "Midnite Vultures"-eque electro jaunt that finally found Beck looking (at least a bit) like he was actually enjoying himself.
The highlight, though, was a radical re-working of "Lost Cause." Usually a sad-sack acoustic number, the song was given the My Bloody Valentine treatment; washed in reverb and dread, it found emotion in unlikely places, and proved -- yet again -- that just when you think Beck's run out of tricks, he's capable of nonchalantly pulling one more rabbit out of his somewhat billowy sleeves.