What happened to you? In the mid-to-late nineties you were one of the most original musicians in the world. You had a rare combination of creative and professional drive that few artists share. When I started seeing you Joey, Smokey and Justin were the backbone of your band. It was a total party atmosphere and you left the audience wanting more. You brought fun back to live concerts for a lot of indie rockers like myself. After Smokey and Joey left the band, you surrounded yourself with more people. Along with the horn section you added soul singers, etc. While I missed SH and JW, you still put on great shows during this period. I thought the soul singers were totally unnecessary because I was there to see you. Then you toured with the Flaming Lips. While the timing wasn’t really right (given the dour material you were performing) at least it was unpredictable and interesting. It helped that you seemed very emotionally involved with the music (and played some great covers). In the end I was still there for you (and the songs).
In the past year I’ve seen you three times. The first time was at the El Rey. I blamed your lackluster performance on breaking in a new band and the bad sound at the El Rey. You didn’t seem too together but I figured the band’s chemistry would improve after a tour. You added Ryan Faulkner around this time. He reminded me of a younger version of you. He had your (former) energy and danced wildly (like the way you used to dance). Once again, I pay my money to see you, but I guess if you’re too tired to dance, I understand. The next time I saw you at the Wiltern. This time you were joined on stage by puppets. My attention was temporarily drawn away from you towards the puppets, but since you weren’t playing behind a screen, I did glance over at you. I couldn’t help but notice that you looked completely miserable. You barely acknowledged the crowd. We paid good money to be entertained and wanted to see a Beck show. The puppets might be great in a video, but they didn’t distract me enough not to notice how bored you were. After that show I blamed the lackluster performance on the distraction of the puppets and the Wiltern’s bad sound.
Then there was last night. It’s time to take responsibility. Instead of playing Orange County or Pomona (like before previous tours) or the Echo or Spaceland (where tickets are free/cheap) you decided to charge full price for tickets at Club Element. I’d never heard of Element, but I figured I’d check it out. Turns out it’s a cheesy nightclub with overpriced drinks, overpriced parking located in the heart of Hollywood. Your set started out fairly promising with a new song. The energy from the stage was higher than the last couple of times. Ryan Faulkner was there again to represent young Bek. The crowd seemed unusually restless and my attention started to drift. I noticed that the acoustics resembled a barn. There was a weird speaker setup with a second set of mounted speakers half way back. I couldn’t hear anything so I moved back by the sound board. It wasn’t any better and I was hearing exactly what your sound guy was hearing. You played some sad songs then a string of new songs. I can’t tell you if I liked them or not because the sound was so awful and you looked so bored standing up there. I’m assuming you did an encore, but I can’t say for certain because I went over to Boardner’s to see The Movies who have a singer with stage presence and charisma. My mood immediately improved. Once again I feel like a sucker for buying such expensive tickets for your “special club show” but I won’t make that mistake again. The worst part is that I’m sure with Ticketmaster, Goldenvoice, Club Cheesedick, your managers/publicists/agents/stylists, the IRS, your church, band etc. you probably lost money on the show. It doesn’t need to be that complicated. Had you walked around the corner with me to Boardner’s you would have seen a lot of people (including the artists) having a great time. Do us all a favor and learn to have fun again. The Movies could definitely show you a thing or two.
Your (former) Pal,