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Beck "Fires up The Night"
May 2nd @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, S.F
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....Beck In SF

....At the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, in San Francisco last night, Beck provided the punch. He also pushed the limits of sonic funk like a preacher spewing forth the rock gospel to the converted, hungry for salvation and solutions in an age of digital personalities, fifteen-minute fame and chat rooms. Taking on the gloried hall like a renegade cosmic guerilla, Beck exorcised Gen X's demons against a backdrop of oversized hoses, tubes and aluminum foil that looked like the remains from the set of "Lost in Space." The center focus of the pop singer's current tour, in support of his recent album "Midnite Vultures," is 1970s-style funk. The staging even evoked that cheap and audacious era, with set decorations that consisted mostly of orange traffic cones and several huge pieces of flexible tubing hanging from the rafters, while band members wore a strange mix of the outlandish (capes) and the mundane (old denim).

......Beck is a musical chameleon, varying styles and genres at the snap of a fingertip, recycling hip hop, techno, folk and funk. One thing that can be said about the pint-sized prodigy is that he rocks and does it well. Disregarding the studio chicanery found on Midnight Vultures in favor of a 100-percent pure and unadulterated funk sound, Beck cut to the core of the new album. He offered up a variety of styles and song, most notably from 1996's Odelay and added depth to tunes from Mutations and Mellow Gold with a full blown horn section, backup singers and a motley crew of musicians dressed like scrubs from a local football league. Having a tight 10-piece band, including the marvelously versatile guitarist Lyle Workman, enabled him to pull it all off Offering up the sincere to the ridiculous, on "Debra," Beck wooed the crowd like a Prince or Barry White clone as a velvety red king-sized bed descended from the hall's rafters. Combining the likes of a dog in heat with the falsetto highs of Barry Gibb, Beck gave the sublime, countering: "We're not trying to be ironic; we're just from the Midwest." The unplugged and bare "Jackass" and "One Foot in the Grave" provided the evening's retro-roots flare. "Devil's Haircut" was the closer and had Beck pacing like a zombie offstage with an array of guitar stands and other metallic debris dangling over his head and shoulders like the king's crown.

......By giving the slacker nation a cool place to hang their scarred egos, Beck has become an anti-counterculture hero of sorts. In doing so, he has also turned the corn-fed masses on to an American legacy of folk and funk, all at the risk of self-parody.

.....By Randy Cohen


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