It's the ultimate post-millennial, 21st century show...
It’s the ultimate post-millennial, 21st century show. So many styles! So many sounds! So much to [I]look [/I]at! And here’s your host now, bursting through the blackness with his ten-piece band in synchronised white-light excitement, the supercool disco boho prince of whatever it is you want him to be, the walking, talking exclamation mark – [a]Beck[/a] 2000!
Hurrah, then. [a]Beck[/a]’s back in the UK after a two-year absence. He has an awful lot of songs to play us, most of which, from ‘Mutations’ and ‘Midnite Vultures’, we’ve never heard live before, and Wembley is visibly not sold out. Two packed dates at Brixton Academy would have sufficed. But given the show’s glitzy bluster and onstage eye candy – [I]Barbarella[/I]-meets-[I]Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory[/I] fantasy decor – perhaps a night at the Millennium Dome would have been more appropriate.
Because by attempting to represent each of his handful of characters and various musical styles in 80 minutes – lo-fi busker, nu-skool retro nerd, avant-garde rock weirdo, sensitive Latino druid, Prince-U-Like funk soul brother – [a]Beck[/a] has designed a show that has plenty of good ideas but little cohesion and even less soul.
For sure, it’s a theatre – a musical, even – of the absurd: his band look like The Muppets after an accident in a fancy dress shop, while the wind-up toy boy himself sports (fashionably?) ripped denim trousers; not quite the rhinestone cowboy of before, but then he does a lot more dancing these days. And, at one point, the splits.
Wembley is not kind to those lacking in presence and [a]Beck[/a] has never been a great communicator. But still, there’s no denying the maverick brass-blasted genius of ‘Loser’, ‘Jackass’ and ‘The New Pollution’ or the fragile porch-perched torch splendour of ‘Nobody’s Fault But My Own’. Ironically, bearing in mind the lavish OTT stage get-up, it’s the ambitious multi-part disco collages from ‘Midnite Vultures’ which prove the most difficult to translate live. ‘Sexx Laws’ is messy and complicated, while ‘Debra’ finds our amorous friend squawking, painfully, for L-U-V on a leopard-print-covered bed lowered from the skies. It’s pure Spinal Tap, pointless and silly, but, hey, maybe that’s the point.
There’s redemption of sorts at the end. After a solo display of turntable wizardry/public masturbation from DJ Swamp, the band, by now wearing mullet wigs, capes and cricket pads, roll about on the floor and spray fire extinguishers at each other as a Moog feeds back. It’s a surreal moment, totally un-Wembley but very [a]Beck[/a]. He’s been confusing business with pleasure all evening. And at the last minute, he’s got away with it.