Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver BC, August 24
Photo by Joshua Peter Grafstein
by Yasmine Shemesh
The word itself was lit up hugely and in psychedelics on the back screen at the Orpheum Theatre as Beck performed the punchy single of the same name from his upcoming album, Colors, but the sentiment could also be employed to describe the musician’s entire set in Vancouver on Thursday night (August 24). Demonstrating both charismatic showmanship and immaculate artistry, Beck led the audience through a dynamic showing that masterfully navigated through his catalogue and hit all the right notes.
Wearing a dark jacket and a black wide-brimmed hat, Beck took the stage with a smile and dove right into “Devil’s Haircut” from 1996’s Odelay. The riffs were big and vibrant, and he was just as exuberant, waving his non-guitar-wielding arm to the music like a conductor and moving to the front of the stage to sing at the cheering crowd. This energy characterized the first portion of the evening, which featured “The New Pollution,” “Go it Alone,” and a Donna Summer-infused “Think I’m in Love,” on which Beck effortlessly mixed in the disco queen’s hit “I Feel Love.” In the moments when he didn’t have his instrument slung across his shoulders, Beck strutted around the stage, danced, and engaged with the audience — prompting hand claps, sing-a-longs, and playfully teasing the removal of his jacket.
The stage blacked out for a moment — the screen’s visuals quickly pausing their surreal accompaniments to each song — as Beck retrieved his acoustic guitar, signifying a softer sonic shift that began as he strummed the Dylan-like ballad “Lost Cause, ” singing in his rich timbre. Then, a few from 2014’s Morning Phase, including a gorgeous, twangy “Say Goodbye” (with duelling banjos from his backing band) and a mesmerizing “Wave,” which bathed the singer in a flood of blue light.
Beck’s ability to morph between musical styles with such ease is a testament to his brilliance, and it’s especially striking to experience in a live setting; each moment flowed beautifully into the next. He blasted out of contemplative country and into slack-rap on crowd favourite “Loser,” then “E-Pro.” “Sexx Laws” turned him soulful and funky, finally flinging off his jacket. Bluesy stomp “One Foot in the Grave” heard him, without backing, wailing on a harmonica.
For the encore, Beck returned to the stage wearing a white blazer and matching hat. He proudly introduced his band (a full seven-piece that were fantastic throughout) and they launched into impressive individual solos — particularly drummer Chris Coleman’s take on Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.”
Then, as “Where it’s At” concluded the show, Beck and his bandmates gathered together to line dance. It was a fun and fitting exit to what was, on all accounts, a celebratory evening of music.