Prairie Beckons

Mark Poutenis

It takes a rare performer to overcome the drawbacks of playing Grand Prairie's Nokia Theatre. The jumbo cineplex seating removes the audience from the performers like med-school freshmen from a surgery demonstration, and the fact that few can afford a legal buzz on $8 beers after shelling out $12 for parking only adds to the clinical, advertisement-loaded ambiance.

But Beck is the ultimate exception--I'm confident he'll set the smoke-free facility's roof on fire. Usually I'm content to see even my favorite musical acts once or twice in a lifetime, but Beck's live show is a spectacle that changes too dramatically every year to miss. His current tour features live marionettes mimicking the band and projected onto video screens. Such a blend of hilarious visuals, elaborate production and (maybe) wry social commentary is classic Beck.

His unlikely transformation from weirdo pop-culture dumpster-diver to Nudie-suited showman was completed at the Will Rogers Auditorium on November 14, 2002, though technically, it wouldn't have happened without the Flaming Lips as his backing band. After an enthusiastic version of his single "Loser," he bantered with Lips leader Wayne Coyne about his philosophical disagreement with artists who refuse to play the hits that made their careers possible. Coyne--whose band earlier that night pounded out its hit single "She Don't Use Jelly"--agreed and griped about Radiohead's refusal to play "Creep." After the next song fell apart, Beck spontaneously picked out that familiar arpeggio and began to sing "Creep." The Lips immediately joined in. Beck botched the words, but the entire audience sang along anyway.



Beck performs at Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, June 21, with Jamie Lidell.

I won't be there--I spent hundreds of dollars on tickets and "related expenses" to see him, Radiohead and countless others at out-of-town superfest Bonnaroo. But Beck alone is worth the daylong drive and stench of sun-baked Porta-Potties and hippies; he's certainly worth a short drive to Bland Prairie. I'd bet he could even make the former "Nokia Live" come back to life.

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