The West Coast LA singer-songwriter-guitarist-drummer-banjo player-glockenspielist etc…rolled into south London fresh from appearances at both Glastonbury and the brand spanking new (to these shores) Nile Rodgers headlined and curated festival FOLD at Fulham Palace, an event which spans and celebrates all popular genres. It could be argued FOLD is the festival manifestation of Beck himself.
It had been a busy week for Beck and a tumultuous one for the sold out crowd in Brixton. As the iconic dome of the venue came into sight the usual energy surrounding a gig like this was replaced by an air of nervous tension given the abruptly changed political landscape. Street teamers were doing their level best to gee up gig goers but it was the man that everyone came to see who knew exactly how to lift everyone’s spirits.
With the stage bathed in red light and backed by a huge LCD screen, the man in black struts on stage and launches into “Devil’s Haircut”, to an almost palpable sense of relief from the assembled thousands. A heavy-ish loosener followed by “Black Tambourine”, a song described as a “Bo Diddley/Adam Ant party” by Beck. Two songs in and we’ve arguably hit two genres already. The theme is set. We’re covering all bases tonight and as soon as the intro to “Loser” fills the grandiose art deco setting for the night, the shackles are off. Events of the week are forgotten for now, Brixton academy is all that matters for the next 90 minutes and Beck Hansen is leading us in worship. From here on in we’re celebrating pop, funk, hip hop, heavy rock and even a hint of country with the achingly sad “Lost Cause” mid way through the night. It’s a good point to stop and actually listen as Beck’s lyrics are often wonderfully machine gunned at you a little too quickly. No criticism intended…it’s a style he’s made his own and one that sets him apart. The opportunity continues with a quartet of songs (Say Goodbye, Heart Is A Drum, Wave, Blue Moon) from his Grammy winning, Beyonce conquering, Kanye infuriating 2014 album “Morning Phase”. To many this would feel like the respite before the big finish but no-one’s attention is lost. It feels like we, everyone could wait all night if they had to for that final push but it arrives with “Girl”, “Sexx Laws” and we end as heavy as we started with “E-Pro”.
The accompanying musicians had been perfect all night but the spotlight was undoubtedly Beck’s. The encore is theirs though as each member is introduced and showcased with covers of Chic, Bowie, Kraftwerk and Prince, all bookended by “Where It’s At”. It’s a suitably eclectic end to a night that everyone inside Brixton Academy wanted and needed in equal measure. A perfect example of how music brings people together. The more things change, the more they stay the same.