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Beck And Phoenix’s Summer Odyssey Tour At The Kia Forum, Monday, August 7th, 2023

Beck
Beck And Phoenix at The Kia Forum

“Shout out to the Swiftie dads here tonight!” said Beck after a few songs. I am not a dad, but, at this moment, I saw many men screaming in approval with both arms in the air. It was Beck’s first headline show at the Kia Forum located across the street from the So Fi Stadium where Taylor Swift has her current residency of 6 nights, probably all sold out. Beck & Phoenix’s Summer Odyssey tour may have benefited from the proximity of this Barbie convention – I saw the pink crowd from afar – as many dads had effectively dropped their daughters at the Stadium to attend a grown-up show at the Forum, just half a mile away.

When I bought the ticket for the Forum show, I did not I would have the chance to see Beck at the Lodge Room where he did a surprise show back in March. However, there is no comparison between an intimate show and an arena show. Last night was another beast, that ended up lasting almost 5 hours, developing like a small festival, with full sets from Sir Chloe, Jenny Lewis, Phoenix, and Beck for a fantastic rock show.

The only band I wasn’t familiar with was Sir Chloe, an indie rock band from Vermont, which opened the long evening. It’s never easy to play before 6 pm in front of a large half-full arena, but their music was catchy and diverse enough to keep people interested, starting with the rocking “Should I,” the moody “Salivate,” or “Know Better” from their 2023 album “I Am The Dog.” Their tender romantic “Michelle,” which was propelled to TikTok fame, was well received and frontwoman Dana Foote had an interesting stage presence, visibly excited to be sharing the stage with these prestigious bands. From “Animal” to the dynamic dark “Hooves,” to the mid-tempo “Obsession,” she could go from tender to ferocious in the same song with a captivating vocal range.

With Beck, Jenny Lewis was the second LA-born-and-raised artist of the show, and every Los Angeleno with some interest in music has known her forever, since her Rilo Kiley days. Jenny does her thing, with a touch of Americana mixed with indie pop and she does it very well, with talent and grace, but also a combination of cuteness and sexiness. The audience particularly appreciated when she stood up on a platform with a fan blowing her long hair during several songs. “I love your hair!” I heard coming from behind me. Jenny, who was rocking an Elvis-like black leather jumpsuit, played her most recent (and very catchy) songs – “Psychos,” “Joy’all,” “Puppy and a Truck”— as well as songs from her excellent 2019 album “On the Line” (“Red Bull & Hennessy”), noting that “Do Si Do,” was “produced by your boy Beck.” Her clear voice was backed up by some of her female musicians and she alternated between her acoustic guitar and her hair-blowing platform. Meanwhile, the GA became a dancing floor during the sexy “She’s Not Me,” while a fervent clap team rose during the new “Joy’all.” Jenny didn’t make any allusion to the Swift phenomenon happening next door but instead told us she tried to find the tombs of Chet Baker, Etta James, and Ella Fitzgerald when walking her dog in the Inglewood cemetery across the street. She did an unexpected and rocking cover of Girls’ “Lust for Life,” and closed her set with the fun and rewarding “See Fernando,” from her 2008 album “Acid Tongue.”

Setlist: Just One of the Guys, Do Si Do, She’s Not Me, Joy’all, Red Bull & Hennessy, Head Underwater, Psychos, Puppy and a Truck, Lust for Life (Girls cover), See Fernando

Phoenix operates with style and elegance, as the band got on stage at the sound of a Lully sonnet, to mark their royal French origin. They immediately played the hits, “Lisztomania,” “Entertainment,” and “Lasso”… One thing is sure Phoenix doesn’t keep the most famous songs for the end, they start with them. I was surprised to realize how many songs I knew without having followed their career very closely. Right away the crowd was with them, singing all the lyrics and the energy was very high, reinforced by the ever-changing beautiful visuals decorating the stage for a dramatic effect, from opulent dreamy sceneries to Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors to kaleidoscopic multicolor designs, to earth-to-space-and-back journeys. I have never been a fan of frontman Thomas Mars’s vocals which I found a bit too nasal and without great range, but I must admit that he is a real showman, as he and the full band know how to entertain and command a venue of this size. I was on guitarist Christian Mazzalai’s side, and he injected a lot of energy into the songs, holding his guitar very high and pointing it at the audience like a gun. From the eccentric “Alpha Zulu,” to the driving “After Midnight” to the older “Armistice” to the familiar “Everything Is Everything,” the songs were received with the same enthusiasm and played with a crescendo vibrancy, while the two parts of “Love Like a Sunset” served as a pleasant intergalactic interlude, and a moment for them to catch their breath for a few minutes. At the end of “If I Ever Feel Better/Funky Squaredance,” Mars did the most theatrical move of the night, kneeling in front of a caped and masked man who could have escaped from a historic baroque movie, and when Mars disappeared the mysterious character held Mars’s bloody severed head to the audience: “You think this is funny? Mars joked afterward. “We had actually to bring this thing through customs from France to the United States. When you bring something to the United States if you’re French, you know how hard it is if they see this?” The cool disco floor of “Trying to Be Cool” cut the drama short and they concluded with “Drakkar Noir, 1901″ however,  it was not over yet. At the end of the show, Mars wanted to give more: he jumped off the stage, climbed the rail just next to me, and walked through the crowd for a long time while the band on stage was stretching the last song. He climbed to the balcony, high-fived fans, stood up on fans’ raised hands, and crowd-surfed his way back to the stage.

Setlist: Lisztomania, Entertainment, Lasso, Too Young / Girlfriend, Alpha Zulu, Ti Amo, After Midnight, Armistice, Love Like a Sunset Part I, Love Like a Sunset Part II, Sunskrupt!, Everything Is Everything, If I Ever Feel Better / Funky Squaredance, Tonight, Winter Solstice, Rome, Trying to Be Cool / Drakkar Noir, 1901

Contrary to Phoenix, I have seen Beck many times, I am very familiar with most of his songs and will continue to see him every time I can. He is part of my close musical family and last night, he was in top form, as he browsed his career with cuts from “Odelay,” “Mellow Gold,” “Midnite Vultures,” “Modern Guilt,” “Guero,” “Sea Change,” “Colors.” His work is large and diverse while extremely personal and recognizable. Of course, everyone prefers the older material to the most recent one and Beck knows that. When I think about his songs as a whole, I get a very colorful and fun image in my head – and that’s probably why famous photographer Autumn de Wilde took this picture of him or why Beck used the work of the late digital artist Jeremy Blake for his “Sea Change” album cover. At the Forum, he used colorful visuals and lasers to accompany his songs, often evoking his album covers, while dancing like a (E) pro on the crowd’s favorites “Devils Haircut,” “The New Pollution,” “Qué Onda Guero,” “Loser,” “Sexx Laws”… Beck hasn’t released an album since his 2019 “Hyperspace” – and let’s admit it, nobody has listened to this one – but there was enough in his set to keep everyone happy, from his high-energy hits to the poignant and melancholic melodies of “Sea Change”(“The Golden Age,” “Lost Cause”) that always have the biggest impact on a crowd. It is difficult to realize these songs are already 20 years old! Surrounded by his loyal musicians, guitarist Jason Falkner, bassist Justin Meldal-Johnsen, drummer Joey Waronker as well as keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., and percussionist Ian Longwell, he looked at ease and ready to party. “We’ve been playing together going on 25 plus years and so we haven’t toured together for about eight years, so it’s somewhat rarefied to have them all on stage here this evening,” he said when introducing the band. Beck restlessly climbed up and down the stairs that were part of the stage setting, rapped on “Qué Onda Guero,” won the hearts of everyone during the electro-bounce of “Girl,” and crooned during a rare rendition of “Debra” adding a few extra lyrics not included in the original version. Each song has a few eccentric departures from the originals, with plenty of screams and vocal variations. Green lasers bathed the public during “Chemtrails” for a more dramatic and playful effect, but there is no Beck concert without “Loser,” “Sexx Laws,” and “Where It’s At” which ended up with a giant balloon party as all the bands came back on stage. Just before this last song, Beck brought Phoenix back to sing their new song, and the tour’s namesake, “Odyssey.”

This Summer Odyssey tour was effectively a real (and unexpected) odyssey, an epic five-hour show for all the Swiftie dads of Los Angeles and beyond.

Setlist: Devils Haircut, Mixed Bizness, The New Pollution, Black Tambourine, Qué Onda Guero, Girl, Soul of a Man, Nicotine & Gravy, Wow, Gamma Ray, Debra, The Golden Age, Lost Cause, Chemtrails, Dreams, Loser, Sexx Laws, E-Pro, Odyssey (with Phoenix), Where It’s At.

 

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