Beck | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Zig-Zag With Me: Beck closes out the Colors tour in style with Jenny Lewis at Festival Pier
In his trademark non-sequiter way, Beck Hansen had a perfect way to summarize his varied quarter-century long career: “discursively musical explorations.”
“Thanks for zig-zagging along with me all these years,” he told a packed Festival Pier last Friday night on the final night of tour in support of his 2017 LP Colors. It was a fitting summation of the set, as well, which raced from alt-rock radio classics like opener “Devil’s Haircut” to modern electropop bangers “Dreams,” tender acoustic moments like the aching “Lost Cause,” and globally minded jams like “Que Onda Guero.” Not to mention covers galore: in the mix throughout the night, we heard “Raspberry Beret” by Prince (acoustically appended to Midnite Vultures’ “Debra,” which led to a full-crowd singalong) Kanye West’s “Power” (like a few seconds of “ahhh’s” and “hey’s” at the end of “Girl”) and an absolutely bonkers encore medley…which we’ll get to.
In short, it was a big party fitting for the end of the tour — but bringing the party is exactly what Beck has done for the past quarter century, regardless of whether his albums found him in sad, introspective mode (Mutations, Sea Change, Morning Phase) or upshifted into postmodern impressionist gear (Odelay, Midnite Vultures, The Information, Colors).
The gig got off to a breezy start with an opening set from indie rock singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis. She filled in at the last minute when previously announced opener Glass Animals had to drop off the tour due to drummer Joe Seaward sustaining injuries in a Dublin biking accident. It was a perfect match — her five piece band was tight and vibrant, the selection of songs (though short) was a good mix of cuts from The Voyager (“Head Underwater” was a terrific opener) and back catalogue favorites (the buoyant “See Fernando,” the Rilo Kiley fave “Portions for Foxes”). Lewis has evidently been recording her fourth solo LP with Beck; the crowd was treated to a song from it, “Wasted Youth,” which opens and concludes on on a bouncing Rhodes keyboard line that sort of kind of reminded me of the main riff on “Where It’s At.” That’s not entirely a fair comparison, though, since the song veers in a totally different direction from there, classic Cali soul pop with a more urgent pulse than we’ve heard from Lewis since Acid Tongue.
She also shouted out her local connections before concluding on the jammy “She’s Not Me”: “My dad is from Philadelphia, I’m a big Kurt Vile Fan. You guys know about Paulie Vile, his brother? Legend. Sells Jello shots in front of his brother’s shows.”
“She’s the coolest,” Beck gushed later during his headlining set, mentioning again that he’s working on her next record. “I really think it’s the best thing she’s done.”
Lewis joined Beck onstage a couple times during the set — for a beautiful acoustic “Girl Dreams,” which Beck performed acoustic ensemble style at stage right, and for the extended “Where It’s At” at the show’s conclusion.
His set as a whole, like I said earlier, was all over the place, album-wise and style-wise, though maintaining a distinct energy throughout (even during the acoustic moments that served as breathers). I was totally not expecting any songs from One Foot In The Grave, and we got two (Beck stomping his foot blowing the hell out of his harmonica on the title track for the penultimate number of the night). The excellent Colors, was embraced across the setlist, with six of its songs made the cut. The LED-powered visuals were wild and weird: a Tron-like grid that the band dissolved into, kitschy retro designs, and lots of poppy hues throughout.
And let’s talk about the band for a second. They were massive, and received an appropriately massive intro at the end. Strutting the lip of the stage, mic in hand, Beck gave each of his players an individual moment in the spotlight, while the full band played a cover snippet customized to them. So bassist Dwane Moore (a Philly son, who was warmly received) got Chic’s “Good Times”; guitarist Jason Falkner (who was a ridiculously close double of Steve Gunn when the light hit him right) got the Stones’ “I Miss You”; keyboardist Roger Manning spaced out to Gary Numan’s “Cars”; the multi-instrumental backing ensemble Beck called “The B-53s” (that’s Jake Sinclair, Cecilia Della Peruti and Alex Lilly) bounced to “Once In A Lifetime” by Talking Heads, and drummer Chris Coleman got Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight,” because of course.
This (plus “One Foot”) was all in the context of a tangent from “Where It’s At,” which the band returned to, with Lewis this time, to bring the night to a close while fighting against the curfew clock. And at 10:59, the crowd was jumping, hands were high in the air, and as the instruments slowly faded Beck and band waved their goodbyes.
Below, check out a collection of photos, both artists’ setlists, and some fan videos from the gig.
Jenny Lewis Setlist
Just One Of the Guys
Portions for Foxes
She’s Not Me
Up All Night
Que Onda Guero
Debra / Raspberry Beret (acoustic)
I Think I’m In Love
I’m So Free
Go It Alone
Girl Dreams (acoustic with Jenny Lewis)
Lost Cause (acoustic)
Girl / Power
Where It’s At
Covers medley: Good Times / I Miss You / Cars / Once In A Lifetime / In The Air Tonight
One Foot in the Grave
Where It’s At (reprise)