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SLCR #290: Beck (August 20, 2017)

Did I ever tell you about how we were going to Nashville to see the solar eclipse? I can’t remember if I ever said as much in a review. The logic was that anywhere along the path of totality could be cloudy, so we should go someplace fun so that it wouldn’t be a wasted trip if we got rained out. Nashville seemed more interesting (if farther) than, say, Kearney, Nebraska. Not that it matters – we didn’t go. I mention this only because the Beck tour was announced shortly after we decided against the trip. I thought if we could get tickets, it might make a nice consolation prize.

One challenge: tickets were going on sale on a busy Friday morning when – apart from my manager – I was the only one of my team in at work. To that end, I booked myself a 10-minute meeting, from 9:55 to 10:05 a.m. I found out about the show from an article on The AV Club but didn’t hear of much hype locally, so while I figured tickets would sell fast, I thought I might have a decent chance. At 9:55, I logged into the site and spammed refresh while my manager went in search of coffee. By the time she was back, I had two tickets – front row centre. The process was so painless that I didn’t really believe everything would work out until we actually got to our seats.

With an 8:00 p.m. start time, we drove up to Saskatoon in the afternoon. The drive was uneventful, though not exceptionally well-timed on my part. Had we left earlier, we could have had dinner before the show. Later, and we could have just gone straight there. Instead, we parked downtown on a Sunday evening with just enough time to kill to be irritating. Eventually, we wandered over to Starbucks for a coffee and an iced tea, respectively, ensuring we’d be appropriately mildly caffeinated for the concert. I think the kids call this “pre-drinking.”

Walking towards TCU Place, we passed people leaving with armloads of Beck merchandise. Once inside, we could see that the Stuff Table was doing booming business. There was nothing particularly unique – shirts, vinyl, hats – but people were snapping it up. I didn’t bother getting anything.

We hung out in the lobby for a bit and watched people before taking our seats. I didn’t feel particularly old or young – I think we were decidedly average as far as the crowd went. I suppose that would make sense – Beck’s been making music for a long time. Loser, his first big hit, came out when I was in Grade 9. And I’ve never really understood how he had such a successful career after that one. Which is not any kind of commentary on his talent – it’s just weird that a guy could have a massive hit with what was almost a novelty song and still be popular over 25 years later. That song was perfect one-hit wonder fodder but he managed to avoid that trap.

A few days before the show, they announced that McRorie would be the opening act. Do you know who McRorie is? I did not. I meant to do internet research before the show, but kept forgetting. Finally, I watched five seconds of a video of what looked like a one-man band before getting distracted and never going back to it. Internet video is a wonderful innovation that is completely wasted on me. That said… I pretty much got it? McRorie is, indeed, a one-man band. He wore a black kilt with two keyboard-type instruments slung over his hips like holsters. There were drum pads on his feet that played when he stomped or walked. There were also drum pads on his chest that he could hit. His arms were wired up so that when he brought one arm up, cymbals crashed. He could also apply any number of filters on his voice. And I think he might have been wearing Google Glass. If this does not sound amazing to you, we can no longer be friends.

For the most part he did covers, ranging from Fight for Your Right to Sunday Morning Coming Down to Gin & Juice to Rockin’ in the Free World to Hallelujah, which lent itself especially well to a stomping lunatic with a robot voice punching himself in the chest:

She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
[CHEST PUNCH DRUM] [CHEST PUNCH DRUM] [CHEST PUNCH DRUM] [ARM RAISE CYMBALS]

In a few nights we will see kd lang and she will surely perform Hallelujah and it will be great but in such a different way. You don’t want to know how much I’d pay to see the two of them do the song together.

He also did a few originals. One was called Cowboys Take Drugs Too and was about exactly that. I think he said he wrote that in Plunkett, which is the smallest of small Saskatchewan towns and yet somehow this still makes perfect sense. Another, his closing number, was called Nuclear Party Song, a worryingly timely number about partying being the only sensible thing to do while the bombs fall. Those who party the hardest will survive the nuclear holocaust. Based on our volume when yelling “PARTY,” our section was deemed likely to survive, so we’ve got that going for us.

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During the break, Mika and I did what we always do – showed each other cute animal pictures that our respective friends posted on Instagram. We’ve got a lot of concerts coming up and a lot of mutual friends, so if I follow you on Instagram and she doesn’t, be a pal and post some cute animal pics, okay?

Beck and his band hit the stage a few minutes after 9:00 and launched right into Devils Haircut. Beck is kind of a weird one for me – I’ll get really into one album and then skip one entirely. I had no idea what this show would be like and I knew there was a chance that I’d only know a handful of songs. But this was not the case! It was almost as if he skipped everything that I did. Not only did he play most of the big singles, but there were five songs from my favourite album of his, Guero. That surprised me because it’s not one I ever hear people list among his best, but whatever, it worked out great for me. We got Black Tambourine, Qué Onda Güero, Go It Alone, Girl, and E-Pro, all great. Girl has been stuck in my head ever since.

setlist.fm is a delightful resource for concerts. It’s also sometimes very wrong, but this looks pretty accurate to me. I added the album titles for my own interest.

Devils Haircut [Odelay]
Black Tambourine [Guero]
The New Pollution [Odelay]
Qué Onda Güero [Guero]
Think I’m in Love [The Information]
Mixed Bizness [Midnite Vultures]
Timebomb [Timebomb single]
Soul of a Man [Modern Guilt]
Go It Alone [Guero]
Paper Tiger [Sea Change]
Lost Cause [Sea Change]
Blackbird Chain [Morning Phase]
Heart is a Drum [Morning Phase]
Blue Moon [Morning Phase]
Loser [Mellow Gold]
Girl [Guero]
Sexx Laws [Midnite Vultures]
Wow [Colors]
Dreams [Colors]
E-Pro [Guero]
Encore:
Where It’s At [Odelay]
Debra [Midnite Vultures]
One Foot in the Grave [One Foot in the Grave]

He opened with five straight songs I knew before starting to get into the stuff that was less familiar to me. Not that this mattered – this was a fantastic show from start to finish. Beck has great energy and his band was killer. For the songs I knew, he blew away the album versions. And all the ones that were new(ish) to me were great too. I love those shows where I leave as a bigger fan than when I came in. This one gave me new appreciation for everything I already liked and made me want to seek out everything of his that I didn’t already know.

Though it lists three songs for the encore, they really all blended into each other, ending with more of Where It’s At and also encompassing Beck’s introductions of his band. Most of the musicians had a chance to solo – the drummer started his with the good part from In the Air Tonight, always appropriate and appreciated.

This was Beck’s first time in Saskatoon and he seemed genuinely surprised by how loved he was. When he mentioned he’d never played there before, people cheered and it seemed like they weren’t about to stop. Later on, he messed up the words to one of his newer songs because “I’ve never heard people clap along to that one before.” Everyone sang along wherever they could, the “na na, na na na, na naaaa” parts of E-Pro and – of course – the chorus of Loser being especially popular. People stood for the whole show. We tried staying seated, since we had pretty much the best view in the house already and didn’t feel the need to hinder the folks behind us, but one dude to Mika’s left was really into dancing into her way so I wound up politely shoving him aside and we stood for the second half of the show. I didn’t mind at all.

It wasn’t that short a show but still felt like it was over too soon, and then we were back on the road. We got home around 2:00 a.m. and – if you can believe it – even had to stay off the internet until the next afternoon, when we’d caught up on TV we missed. A crushing sacrifice but well worth it.

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UPCOMING CONCERTS:
• kd lang w/Kacy & Clayton (August 26)
• Guns N’ Roses w/Our Lady Peace (August 27)
• The Sadies (September 14)
• BA Johnston (September 15)
• Steve Earle & The Dukes (September 27)
• The New Pornographers w/Born Ruffians (October 6)
• Whitehorse w/Terra Lightfoot (October 13)
• Sarah Slean (October 14)
• Martha Wainwright (October 22)
• David Myles w/Port Cities (October 24)
• Headstones w/SNAKEandtheCHAIN (November 17)
• Cold Specks (November 24)
• Tanya Tagaq & the Regina Symphony Orchestra (November 25)

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Beck, Genesis, Interesting Entries, U2, and Crash Test Dummies

Here’s the third batch of your favourites! Sorry it’s taken so long to get this round posted. I’ve been out of town for the holiday, and working 6 days a week. I will get to all of your choices shortly, trust me!

11 DESEREE: Beck – Mutations

Deseree offered up this Beck collection of songs as her entry into this project. While she said it might not be her favourite album of all time, it’s the one that she finds herself playing most often. Fair enough! I remember my lovely wife buying a copy of Mutations on the day of our first date (and what that says about our relationship, I shudder to think!), and she was very happy with the record from the first spin (and the date didn’t go too badly either!).

Beck has always been weird, going out onto limbs that other people didn’t even necessarily know were there, in order to bring us his sound of mish-mashed influences and new creations. Each new album is a new facet, and it’s a wonder there’s any cohesion to his work at all (and yet there usually is). Mutations is, to me, largely a record for later at night, for quieter and thoughtful moments. A lot of the songs (except Tropicalia, of course), are slower, more introspective, but still sound fantastic. It’d been a long time since I’d heard this, and I thank Deseree for reminding me of its existence!

12 BRENT: Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail

Brent said this album, more than Selling England By The Pound, is the one he considers his favourite. Though he loves the whole record, he said it is due in large part to his love of the way the last track (Los Endos) lets his mind just space out and go wherever it wants. Well then, right on, man!

When I played it back, having never actually heard any of these songs (though I am surely acquainted with Genesis, especially their later years, in general), I was quite surprised. It was a fun romp through a mixture of jazzy and spacey lyrics and instrumental experimentation, and more typical Genesis-sounding tracks. Somehow it all holds together as a pop album, and that’s cool. It definitely sounds like the mid-70’s to me, though I’m not really sure that that holds water as a description…

Wikipedia tells me that this was their first effort post-Peter Gabriel, and that Phil Collins was initially reluctant to sing. Interesting.

13 LORI, MARIE AND BROOKE: Not Knowing Their Faves, But Still Playing The Game!

Some people, when asked the question for this project, didn’t have an exact answer…

Lori said she likes Air Supply, but didn’t know the album she liked or the colour of the cover. She just knew she liked it. I got the impression she didn’t really want to play this game for too long, though, so I am satisfied with this much information.

Marie said she really liked that song by Laura Brannigan, “you know the one, right?” She hummed a bit of it for me, but I didn’t recognize it, and she didn’t know the name of the record or the song either. Oh well, at least she knows what she likes in her own head!

Brooke said that her friends just burn CDs of stuff they are listening to for her, and she plays those. She doesn’t seem to care who the artists are or what the albums are called, and she didn’t offer up one as a favourite – she seemed to treat them all equally.

Interesting times, indeed. A band but no album, an unknown song but no title or album, and indifference towards anything specific. This question has brought out a lot of interesting responses. I’m having an inordinate amount of fun, doing this…

14 LORRAINE: U2 – Rattle And Hum

Lorraine said this record, above all others, was her favourite. And from what I know of Lorraine, her choice of U2 does not surprise me at all. Maybe choosing this particular record, instead of Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby surprised me a bit, but then again, not really.

I have a real love/hate thing with U2. I loved their earlier stuff, thought it was strong and passionate. I was with them right up to and including Achtung Baby, but even by then I was starting to have to admit that their new stuff wasn’t grabbing me in that same, visceral way. Hate is a strong word, but I never cared at all for their pop/dance experimentations, Bono’s extracurricular circus activities are an obnoxious distraction, and the new stuff is just re-tread parodies of themselves. It all sounds the same. Maybe they’ve just gotten so full of themselves and so popular that they don’t have to try anymore? People are slobbering all over themselves in anticipation of the new U2 record coming out soon, but I can tell you how it’ll sound – just like the last one (and that wasn’t particularly good at all). Big deal.

Not being a particularly religious person (so it’s a wonder I liked this group’s earlier stuff at all), I always considered Rattle And Hum my Sunday morning church music. I played it on tape every week (and plenty besides that) until I finally wore it out. The songs here soar and glide with that energy they were just starting to lose by then. Call this their last gasp. It’s a nice mix of live and studio tracks, and any record with B.B. King on it is good for me. I know every note of this record by heart, and it still lifts me now, to hear it again after all these years. Too bad they had to go and start sucking so hard. Thanks, Lorraine, for bringing me back my Sunday morning music!

15 JAMES: Crash Test Dummies – God Shuffled His Feet

James loved the Crash Test Dummies. I’m not exactly sure where he stands on them these days, but I get the sense it’s still love, just not as strong. Whatever the current status, he chose this as his favourite record, and none of us are too surprised!

It’s hard for me to listen to this band. Their first record was playing in the tape deck when I had my first serious car accident. Such associations tend to make me not want to listen. Imagine that. But in the interests of this project, I have sucked up my own mental bullshit and ventured into the tracks on this record.

It’s been years since I heard more than one track by this group in a row, and I was pleasantly surprised by how the tidy and fun production has captured the Dummies in their prime. The songs sound great, like they were made by actual humans. And yes, their lyrics are quirky and different, and yes, Brad Roberts’ voice still sounds a bit like a put-on (even though we know it’s not), but this collection of songs is intelligent and highly, truly entertaining. I know this group was big in this country, at one point, but they should probably have been bigger. This record is a perfect example of why.

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