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Beck At The Lodge Room, Tuesday March 14th 2023


Out of the blue, Beck announced a show at the Lodge Room last week – a possible warmup for his upcoming tour that starts next month – and I got lucky enough to score a ticket. Being online at the right time is the only thing that matters about these events, as it was sold out 5 minutes after I bought a ticket. The capacity of the Lodge Room must be around 500 and it was an unexpected opportunity to see Beck in an intimate venue. The weather was still awful by Los Angeles standards – it basically rained all day long – but I was nevertheless ready to stand in line outside for several hours to be in the front row; and it was worth every drop of rain! I have seen Beck many times, but I thought the good old days of having the chance to see him play in front of a few hundred people were long gone. I even bought a ticket to see him with Phoenix at the Kia Forum this summer, even though I hate the Forum and don’t care much for Phoenix.

Tuesday night’s show was very special: it was Beck back to his folk-musician days, stepping on stage wearing ripped jeans and a light leather jacket, his curly blonde hair framing his juvenile face. It’s amazing how time had absolutely no effect on Beck. He is one of those people who doesn’t seem to age even a bit, despite the fact he is now 52. “Last summer, my hair just turned curly,” he told us… a phenomenon I had attributed to the rainy weather. “You smell like a wet dog,” he told us with a smile. But perhaps age had another effect on him since I don’t remember him being so laid back and talkative. There was no distance between him and his adoring and ecstatic audience, he even exchanged a fist bump with a guy standing in the front row, and there were a few cute interactions with the crowd, including a couple asking him to officiate their upcoming wedding at Joshua Tree. This is something I couldn’t have imagined Beck doing when I saw him at the Henri Fonda theatre about 20 years ago.

Every time I see Beck, his chosen repertoire is much more focused on old material than new one. Didn’t he release “Colors” and “Hyperspace” in 2017 and 2019, two albums I have never heard live? Not that I am complaining a bit because I much prefer his older songs, plus, listening to five songs from his masterpiece “Sea Change” is always a pleasure, especially when the tunes are reinvented in such a stripped down and inventive manner: “It’s All in Your Mind” was particularly touching and when he switched to piano for “Lonesome Tears,” he added cascading keys as a substitution for the crescendo of strings in the original… this was not an easy task. “I never played it on piano before,” he told us.

Beck was in an extremely talkative mood. All night long he told us stories, evoking his humble beginning, “I started as a folk singer, walking in the streets of Highland Park,” and discussing his choice of material for a song: “Every folk singer writes a good protest song to be called a folk singer, but back in the ‘90s, there was not that much to protest. What were we really pissed off about? We really hated shopping malls, and musicians who sold a lot of records!”

He also told us how he ended up recording the song “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” for his friend the French director Michel Gondry, who gave him such an incomprehensible summary of the movie in a thick French accent that he couldn’t really understand what the movie was about. Beck was unstoppable with stories. Sitting in front of his piano, he couldn’t resist telling us how the “Yoko Ono Piano Drop” was reenacted by Paul McCartney’s people. This was a long and interesting tale, and, to sum it up, let’s just say that this intriguing title was the first art piece by his grandfather, Al Hansen, a performance artist serving in Germany during World War II. Hansen pushed a piano sitting on the edge of a bombed building and called the action “Yoko Ono Piano Drop” as an homage to his friend and fellow artist. Many years later, this was unknowingly reenacted by McCartney’s people, who had to move a piano bought by Jon Brion, when they accidentally dropped it, breaking it into pieces. How interesting to realize that the circle is complete: Beck’s grandfather and Yoko Ono were friends while Beck ended up collaborating with McCartney decades later… All these shared stories made the night so special.

If the concert started with Beck alone on stage with his guitar, a harmonica, and a piano, running his guitar himself like a real folk singer, after “Say Goodbye,” he was joined on stage by two familiar faces: Jason Falkner and Justin Meldal-Johnsen respectively playing guitar/piano and bass for the rest of the show. Beck added that Joey Waronker was on tour with Roger Waters to excuse him for his absence, “I only play with musicians with names that start with a J!” There was a real chemistry between the three men who had visible great pleasure to be playing together again. “I can’t tell you how many places I have been with these guys… The most romantic moments of my life were with these guys… All the food poisonings and the sleepless nights!”

The set oscillated between the beautiful melancholy of “Dead Melodies,” the quirkiness of “Nitemare Hippy Girl,” the exotic fun of “Tropicalia”, the Beatlesque balladery of “Blackbird Chain,” the singalong of “Lost Cause,” (one of my favorite ever). However, the setlist also included a few rarities like “Rowboat,” a song from “Stereopathetic Soulmanure,” covered and praised by Johnny Cash, the brand-new “Thinking About You,” released a few weeks ago and his Neil-Young-unapproved cover of “Old Man,” which engaged the crowd in another singalong. No good show could have ended without “Where It’s At” (mixed with “One Foot in the Grave”) and no one wanted the night to end after such an uplifting ride.

Everyone has their own history with Beck’s songs, but he is one of these rare artists whom I have followed for a long time. Each one of his performances brings pure emotion and memories, a winning combination for a memorable night.

P.S. I didn’t see her, but someone told me that Karen O was in the attendance, a sure sign it was the place to be on Tuesday night.

Pay No Mind (Snoozer)
Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime (The Korgis cover)
Gamma Ray (Audience Request)
I Am the Cosmos (Chris Bell cover)
It’s All in Your Mind
Lonesome Tears (Beck on piano)
Say Goodbye
Lazy Flies
Guess I’m Doing Fine
Nitemare Hippy Girl
Dead Melodies
Blackbird Chain
Lost Cause
Waking Light
Thinking About You

The Golden Age
Old Man (Neil Young cover)
Where It’s At/One Foot in the Grave


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