For mostly but not entirely good reasons, you wouldn’t have known nine years had passed between Beck’s last Twin Cities concert and his rascally show Thursday night at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul.
At 47, the Californian hippie hip-hop rock hipster — who’s already due back Sept. 8 opening for U2 at U.S. Bank Stadium — looked as spry, slender and elfin as he did back in 2008. He may have even been wearing the same bolero hat and ultra-skinny pants as that last local gig, a Roy Wilkins Auditorium set mired in poor acoustics and a rather tepid crowd. No wonder he was in no hurry to get back.
Thursday’s instantly sold-out, 100-minute set harked back even further than 2008, though. The CD-era nostalgia was cranked to 11 as he largely stuck to songs from 1996-2005 and kept up the playful attitude of the albums in that span, especially “Odelay” and “Guero.” He also threw in a Prince cover toward the end that fit the mood like a lace glove.
Beck himself seemed surprised it had been so long.
“Almost a decade,” he acknowledged early in the set. “I don’t know how that happened. It’s always been one of my favorite cities to play.”
For the first half-hour, he and his seven-piece band walloped the audience with an almost nonstop string of funky, rowdy fan favorites, starting with “Devil’s Haircut” and including “Qué Onda Güero,” “New Pollution,” “Mixed Bizness” and “Think I’m in Love.” The latter tune veered seamlessly into disco territory with a snippet of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” and “Mixed Bizness” came off like an above-average Average White Band tribute.
While Beck showed ample energy and prowess from the get-go, his recently remade band — including Jason Falkner and Roger Manning Jr. from early-’90s flower-rock group Jellyfish — took a while to land in a solid groove. The 2007 cut “Timebomb” particularly fizzled. They also struggled with the tempo and sonic mix when the concert took its first mellow turn for “Lost Cause,” although the harmonies soared in that one.
Two new songs, “Dreams” and the kitschy throwaway “Wow” — each from the long-awaited “Colors” album, due in October — did not add much freshness to the show. Instead, the only part where the performance felt like a more forward-leaning affair was a three-song montage from the mystical, Grammy-winning “Morning Phase” album, now three years old (but still new to us).
“Since we haven’t gotten up to these parts… ,” Beck said before setting off into the “Morning” phase of his show, highlighted by a shimmering, elegant take on “Blue Moon” and a cool dueling-banjos arrangement of “Say Goodbye.”
Immediately after those more downtempo tunes, the way-back party machine returned to full-tilt action with a sing-along version of “Loser,” followed by lively, tightly played spins through “Girl,” “Sexx Laws” and, for the encore finale, “Where It’s At.” The cover of “Raspberry Beret” thrown into the middle was a lot like the show on the whole: a little sloppy and predictable, but still spirited and irresistible.
Here’s the set list from the Palace:
- Devil’s Haircut
- Black Tambourine
- New Pollution
- Qué Onda Güero
- Think I’m in Love
- Mixed Bizness
- Go It Alone
- Paper Tiger
- Lost Cause
- Say Goodbye
- Heart Is a Drum
- Blue Moon
- Sexx Laws
- Where It’s At / Raspberry Beret