With a logistics trail that must rival the 3rd Armored Division, the artist known as Beck brought his happy band of minstrels to Austin to sing, dance, and perform a puppet show. No joke. Puppets.
The trek out to The Backyard from where I live is one of those "pack a sandwich for the drive" trips, so long in fact I completely missed the warm up band. I don't know if that was a good thing or bad thing, as at least one concert goer said, and I quote, "They sucked." I couldn't offer an opinion not having seen the show, and can only offer that this particular fan probably would have thought everybody sucked until Beck came on.
If the drive out was long, the walk from the parking lot seemed just as long. Apparently disagreements over parking required The Backyard to park us in an even backer 'backyard" and had us wandering over the river and through the woods on a 20 minute walk to the front gate. I wondered, aloud, whether I should have taken the GPS coordinates of my truck to make it easier to find when I was stumbling through the woods when it was dark later. I hope they get their parking issues resolved soon, I think I got chiggers.
Camera security was at an all time high, with a stout shakedown at the entrance. I don't know what Beck's policy was, this was the venue's. Luckily I had called ahead to inquire about the camera policy or I would have been one of the many that had to stumble all the way back to the car to put theirs away. The policy worked though. I daresay I saw maybe three flashes total from the audience all night. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough off the line to secure a camera badge for this event, so sadly I have no photos for us.
Beck's band trundled onstage, behind them a huge video screen, and were soon followed by an extremely mop-topped Beck wearing a fedora. The band launched into "Black Tambourine" and the crowd just ate it up. From my vantage point at the side of the stage, I could see what appeared to be the band's image projected on the video screen. Closer inspection revealed that it wasn't the band but marionettes dressed in the exact same clothes, and moving to the exact same rythyms. Moving further out I could see that nestled in the back next to the drum kit was a ministage and there were actually 3 or 4 puppeteers working the marionettes live. They did this the whole show. I must have seen well over a thousand concerts and this is the first time I have ever seen anyone use puppets onstage. Maybe its just my latent pupaphobia coming home to roost but I seemed to fixate on the damnable things through the whole show.
I have always liked the way Beck juxtaposes bits and pieces to make a whole in his funky almost whitebread hip-hop kind of way. Beck bounced all over with the show, covering something from just about everything he released. Lots and lots of stuff from Guerro and Odelay, including "Loser," "Devils Haircut," "New Pollution," and some stuff off of Sea Change. Many of them sounded like they were straight off the disc, others were arranged quite differently. I think my favorite song for the night was "Rental Car." On Guerro it has a summerish almost beach boy feel, live it had a growl and bite that they don't really capture on disc. I also enjoyed the the Ray Manzarek-like keyboard vibes on some of the songs. I don't think I heard much I didn't like.
I was glad to see Beck reference Austin, and its world famous bat colony, several times in the show, and at least once in song. He does really seem to enjoy the Austin crowd.
I have never understood Beck's "dancing" guy. I found him intriguing during Beck's SNL appearance, annoying for 90 minutes, and his whole fake banjo routine near the end detracts from the performance and needs to go. Maybe I missed the reference or the context.
I think that the only problem I had was an energy related one. It seemed to me that in such a big open air venue much of the band's energy (not their sound) dissipated the further you got from the stage. While most of the audience probably missed this, I bet that had the same show been held in an enclosed, smaller venue it would have been a much better show. I guess the same could be said for most outdoor shows. Perhaps if the big screen had been showing the actual band instead of a bunch of puppets it would have alleviated some of this.
This show clocked in at 90 minutes and I can recommend it to anyone that does not fear puppets.