Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Beck hit the stage at ACL Live rocking last night. Taping an encore appearance for the 40th season of “Austin City Limits,” Beck and his band blazed onto the stage with a crowd rousing rock god rendition of “Devil’s Haircut” off his classic 1996 album “Odelay.” From there he kept things upbeat powering through a vigorously rhythmic “Black Tambourine” and a tacitly funky take on “Think I’m in Love” before pausing to address the delighted crowd.
“Now that we’ve worked you up into a pseudo-frenzy,” the slightly built rocker said, “we’re going to take it way down.”
He sang through a melancholy take of “Golden Age” off his 2002 heartbreak album “Sea of Change” before going into a series of tracks from his new album “Morning Phase” which has a similar slow-paced plaintive feel. He played “Blackbird Chain,” “Don’t Let it Go” and “Country Down” before digging into his acoustic back catalog for more languid heart-tuggers. The audience was attentive and very receptive, if not riotous, and though Beck was fully committed to the music, singing and playing guitar with laudable skill and beautiful attention to detail, he seemed a bit apologetic between tracks.
“I figured we’d do some of the quiet stuff now and get it out of the way,” he confessed seven or so songs in. A seasoned performer with a keen sense of crowd dynamics, it’s a safe bet that Beck won’t linger quite so long in the slow section of his catalog when he returns for ACL Fest in the fall. When he kicked the set back into high gear at the end the crowd went wild. He ripped through his first hit “Loser” and the free range electro pop hit “Girl” before closing out the set with ferocious rock ‘n’ roll demolition show rendition of “E-Pro” that ended with the whole band strewn across the stage on their backs for a few moments before crawling off.
The ecstatic crowd cheered voraciously and the applause was thunderous when Beck returned to the stage. However, this being a made-for-tv experience, Beck explained he would have to redo some of the acoustic stuff for the show. He went on to reprise five slow-moving numbers before giving the audience the encore they were waiting for — an extended version of the 1996 “Where It’s At” with no turntables avant jazz breakdowns and performance art flirtations with a microphone.
The set overall was an impressive display of the artist’s range and the audience’s patience and attention even through the repeated tracks was a testament to his enduring appeal.