Beck - Royal Hospital Kilmainham, June 17th
Clouds. Muggy temperatures. More clouds. The distinct and very real threat of rain hovering oppressively over our heads. It's not exactly premium festival weather, but Beck has brought the Californian sunshine with him – both figuratively and literally. The clouds part almost miraculously as the sharp-suited Angeleno takes the stage and gets straight down to business with a stomping 'Devil's Haircut'; 'New Pollution' and 'Loser' quickly follow within the first half-hour. There is no time for prissy footstomping or an insistence on playing only new material. Beck ain't that sort of guy.
His willingness to play the hits is in sharp contrast to his opening act. Earlier, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood had cut the ribbon on the evening's programme with selected cuts from both his own compositional work (most prominently from the soundtrack of 'There Will Be Blood'), as well as work by artists as different as Mica Levi (aka Micachu's) 'Under the Skin' soundtrack and Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint. Backed by the London Contemporary Orchestra, it's all very admirable and occasionally even enjoyable – but it's unquestionably both the wrong billing and the wrong setting. It was never going to be an evening of selected Radiohead tunes, but the same performance in the National Concert Hall - where gusts of wind won't dilute the intensity of Greenwood's compositions - would have made for a more absorbing set. As it stands, the majority of the crowd is happy to loll on the grass with their chips and beer as they wait for the main event.
2015 has been a big year for Beck – most notably for bagging that Grammy Award for last year's 'Morning Phase' and the ensuing idiotic kerfuffle about 'respecting artistry' that came from megamouth Kanye West. Yet even after two decades in the business, he's lost none of his enthusiasm – not to mention charisma. He shimmies across the stage as shrugs off his jacket with a tongue-in-cheek move more becoming of Michael Jackson circa 1980 than a skinny white Scientologist from Los Angeles, and it's impossible not to laugh along with him.
Then there's the music. Beck has always been a chameleon when it comes to genre and style, but it's only when you hear him fluidly swinging between the plaintive folk of 'Lost Cause' and 'Heart is a Drum', the experimental pop of 'Gamma Ray', 'E-Pro' and the dreamy 'Think I'm In Love', and even seguing niftily into a snippet of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' that you get the full effect of his virtuosity. A belting version of 'Where It's At' is the rap-tipped icing on top of the cake.
There's no real light show to speak of – it’s still not fully dark by the time the gig ends with an extended version in fact – and there are no screens, confetti explosions or gimmicks to fall back on. Hell, there isn't even an encore to speak of, just an amusing skit that sees the stage briefly made a crime scene, police tape stretching from one side to the other. What we are left with as we file out of the beautiful grounds of the RHK is essentially a greatest hits set by musician who remains defiantly unclassifiable this deep into his career. Artistry? Pfft. Your move, Kanye.
Story by Lauren Murphy | 09:28 | Wednesday 17th June 2015 | Live Reviews