Beverly Hills Wilshire Theater

All this crowd needs is a little more imagination...

“I guess that’s what you do on TV- get on a stool and tell a story,” says [a]Beck[/a], perched on a wooden stool, to the crowd at the second of two sold-out, semi-acoustic performances. “Well, I don’t have one,” he concludes, dryly.

Of course, he’s wrong. Take away the two turntables, the Marshall stacks and the [a]Dust Brothers[/a] eclectic samples, and you’re left with [a]Beck[/a] backed by an entourage of accomplished musicians chugging through a series of melancholy covers and laid-back [a]Beck[/a] standards. So laid back, in fact, that his exchanging dialog with the crowd and starting off key is as unfeigned and revealing as any story Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan ever told.

Though [a]Beck[/a]’s influences run a bit more obscure. Reaching into the ol’ saddlebag, he opts for a Hank Williams number as his first cover. On the Carter Family’s ‘Who’s That Knocking’, the flat-picking mastery of back-up guitarist Smokey Hormel is even more iconically American then the John Wayne statue outside the Wilshire parking structure.

The shaggy showman then barely pulls off a Spanish version of ‘Jackass’, dubbed tonight as ‘Burro’. Sung with a Spanish accent as authentically Mexican as a Burger King spicy bean burger, that wacky, spontaneous element essential to Beck’s character comes out for the first time this evening.

Covers aside, we?re still treated to a handful of country-fried originals. ‘Force Field’ and ‘Static’ are two of the best executed tonight. At one point Beck dives into his funky ‘Tropicalia’ samba number, but it doesn’t quite fit in the plastic cactus and Prozac cowboy covered landscape he’s cruising. There are instruments as diverse a banjo and vibes in the mix, but he shines with only a guitar, harmonica and intuition.

Sure, he doesn’t look haggard. And he hasn’t done time in Folsom Prison. But Beck is a storyteller by heart, and all this crowd needs is a little more imagination. As [a]Beck[/a] puts it best: “You have to imagine existential cowboy sunfalls – uh, what do they call it? Oh yeah, sundowns!”
Tony Bogdanovski