Traditionally, Friday the 13th is a day where strange things happen and hockey mask-wearing zombies chase down teenagers who keep going back to the same abandoned summer camp where people keep mysteriously disappearing. And frankly, there are few things stranger than a Beck concert.
The show opened with Spank Rock, a hip-hop quartet that seemed to be lost in a time where 80s party rap collided with Flava Flav and somehow wound up at a Beck concert. I don’t think that anyone in the audience was quite prepared being assaulted with bone-rattling bass. This was a sea of people who shelled out more than $50 to see an artist whose music has commonly been referred to as “anti-folk.” As much as Beck fancies The Information to be a hip-hop record, his music still doesn’t lend to actual hip-hop music.
Beck played his show like a greatest hits album, mainstream hits like “Where It’s At” and “Loser” were mixed in with fan favorites “Rowboat” and “Tropicalla” as well as a wealth of new songs off The Information. As far as Beck is concerned, the first 20 songs were typical of his performances but around the 20th song, suddenly things took a turn.
The band left the stage while Beck played several songs solo on an acoustic guitar, only to reappear during an apparent Hank Williams cover to eat a dinner that included iceberg lettuce and carrots at a table constructed on stage. As the set moved toward the finale, the band slowly became more and more involved in the music until “Clap Hands” when the dinner transformed into a bizarre rendition of Stomp with plastic fruit and glasses half-filled with water. And yet, somehow, it managed to get stranger. After retiring briefly for an encore break, Beck and one of the band members returned to the stage dressed as bears to perform “1000 BPM.”
Unfortunately, the puppets that were promised in the initial announcements about the tour (with which he previously appeared at Bonnaroo last summer) were a no show. Beck briefly explained that the puppets were too small to be seen on stage, which is unfortunate but if that is the only complaint one could make about the band’s performance, there may as well be no complaints at all.
Once again, however, City Hall showed its inadequacies as a music venue. The venue is basically a warehouse; a nice warehouse with fancy lighting and a bar, but still a warehouse with terrible acoustics. The bass regularly overwhelmed the rest of the music and sometimes the lyrics were difficult to understand. Additionally, at many points in the set it was like watching the band play in the middle of an eclipse.
To make things worse, City Hall gives the bare minimum of information about the show. They failed to tell people that no cameras would be allowed until they had already queued in line for entry, forcing many to return to their cars and come back to an ever expanding line. City Hall certainly isn’t the worst music venue in town, but I expect far better of them considering that they rival the Mercy Lounge and Exit/In with high profile bookings.