With a catalog as diverse as Beck’s, with its broad range of emotions from manic to maudlin, it was hard to predict the set that Dallas would receive this past Saturday night. With tour mates Cage the Elephant and special guests Wild Belle and Spoon attached to the bill, however, there were all the signs that this would be a night of high energy and hot, sweaty dancing bodies.
Wild Belle singer Natalie Bergman got the early evening going with a performance style recalling a subdued Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with a wild flowing outfit and undeniable attempt at owning the giant Dos Equis Pavilion stage.
Spoon let their music do the work, with singer Britt Daniel saying little else outside the standard stage banter of city greetings and plugging their new greatest-hits album, though there was a nice shout-out to Daniel’s father, who was in the audience. While most of the audience sat during Spoon’s set waiting for what was in store for them, many die-hard fans of the Austin band were hard-pressed to stay seated.
Cage the Elephant has always been known for wild performances, and Saturday night’s was no different. Singer Matt Shultz donned a bright yellow rain slicker complete with a clear bubble umbrella as he pranced around in front of a wall of fire. Leaving the stage in the middle of their second song “Cry Baby,” Shultz’s Iggy Pop-like antics drew the audience around him for photo-ops, sweaty hugs and high-fives.
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Performing all of their hits — “Cigarette Daydreams,” “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and “Ready to Let Go” just to name a few – with that kind of sustained intensity and showmanship, Cage the Elephant was threatening to upstage the show’s headliner.
But, Cage the Elephant is not Beck.
If the goal is to get people out of their seats and on their feet, one must come out hard. Beck didn’t waste any time getting to what is arguably his most well-known song, “Loser,” from his 1994 breakthrough album Mellow Gold.
Clearly, Beck was there to have a good time, and he brought the funk-soaked rock rhythms, acid kool-aid visuals, laser lights and humorous onstage banter to back it up.
The funk was brought the hardest in the whiplash-inducing performance of “Devil’s Haircut” when the danceability switched back and forth from moshability in the metal breaks.
“Que Onda Guero” came accompanied by a laser light show on par with anything Pink Floyd or Roger Waters could produce. “Farewell Ride” was coupled with the mind-melting visuals that would perhaps be more appropriate for acid rock, but fit right in with a story about a sun-eyed girl.
As for the humor, Beck took on the roll of an improv sketch actor momentarily to collect fodder for an impromptu revision of the lyrics to “Debra,” and on Saturday, it was to be about texting the title character about getting some barbecue.
Beck said he was “feeling a little bit of Texas romance” that evening.
The night’s quietest moment came in the form of a shortened, lighters-up performance of “Lost Cause” from his desolate 2002 album Sea Change, singing the song’s first verse and chorus before the stage faded to black.
After what had to have been the shortest blackout to an encore interlude in the history of concert-going, Beck and band returned to the stage to perform one last song, “Where It’s At,” in which the singer allowed his band a chance to showcase their talents with more than a simple solo.
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Instead, musicians played snippets from their favorite songs, such as The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Doobie Brothers “Takin’ it to the Street” and Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime.”
Before returning to “Where It’s At,” Beck invited tour mates Cage the Elephant onstage for an abbreviated performance of their “Night Running” collaboration released earlier this year.
In the song’s final moments, the performance space was filled with tissue paper confetti and 2-foot-wide balloons, ending the spectacular show in a complete spectacle of color and cheek-straining cheer.