After Cold War Kids, it was clear that a mob was forming and was going to find their way into the Sutro Stage area to see Beck. I had a solid spot for Cold War Kids but decided to venture out and grab some food to charge up for the evening. It was great timing on my part as I ran into some friends and ended up hanging out with them while moving up slowly to get a better spot for the act that everyone knew would put on a good show. Problem is, the crowd swelled and got huge even before the set began. I didn’t feel that we were close at all, but given how bad the site lines were at that stage everyone had taken to pushing up. People started to get a little bit touchy. I’m sure people were nicely hammered by this point, too.
Beck started and it got really claustrophobic in there rather quickly. I only stayed through about half of the set and it really fell kind of flat for me. His version of “Girl” was very straightforward and rocking, except that isn’t at all how this song is supposed to sound to me. The album version is light, breezy, fast, and sorta dreamy. The live version was like a crappy alt-rock version or something. Plus, given the relative size of the crowd and the imminent danger that started to present itself in the situation I was in at the time, I started to feel a little bit anxious, too. A fence on the side of the crowd area had been broken down and people climbed over and above it to take a much-needed shortcut through the crowd to get a good spot for Radiohead. Me and my friend were in no position to argue with this line of thinking and we took advantage of this new cut-through area. It worked quite well for us, but I know I head plenty of reports of people having trouble getting from the Beck area to the Radiohead area. Logistically, this festival took a few lumps on Friday, but it’s not surprising in hindsight seeing how many people were there Friday as opposed to the entire weekend.
Before we took off, I was treating to a few very fantastic songs including a crowd singalong of “Loser,” which I thought was completely lame and pandery. But I’ve included a few clips below from the stuff I really enjoyed. The first is a souped-up version of “Hell Yes” played with some Kraftwerk-style hand keyboards and the second was a rocking quick one called “Timebomb” that sounded familiar yet I swore I had never heard it before.
In the two times I’ve now seen Beck live, I’ve let disappointed on both occasions. I’m sure he can put on a good show for the fans that might be more fully invested, but each time I’ve left wishing that it sounded better and tighter and as-polished as Beck makes his music in the studio. There are some artists that really lend themselves well to the studio and some that lends themselves to the live stage, and I’m fully convinced that Beck will remain prolific in the studio in the future and we’ll hardly see him on the road at all in the release of his subsequent albums following up Modern Guilt. It’s a pretty solid piece of music, too. And I seriously consider myself a fan of his music and his mission (Scientology disciple or not). He doesn’t preach to me except through music that speaks to my love for beats, urban culture, and all-things “white boy.” Beck has captured the sound of this generation, but it’s a shame that he can’t figure out how to translate it to the stage.