Everyone loves a summer festival. Although a summer-festival-lite will do in a pinch. 

It’s not a new concept, that Beck’s been parading around for years now, but it’s tried, true, kid-tested and mother-approved: grab a few supporting acts and a well-known co-headliner, and bring the buoyant mood with beats and big balloons through an ensemble encore. In 2019, he brought Camden’s BB&T Pavilion his Night Running Tour, with Cage The Elephant, Spoon and Sunflower Bean, on an August night so rainy they had to take a break midway through until the stormy weather eased. 

Beck | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

Friday night, Beck brought his Summer Odyssey, supported by Sir Chloe, Weyes Blood, and co-headliners Phoenix, and though recent heat and humidity was still giving mid-summer, at least the Mann pavilion’s lawn spectators were spared with markedly less rain, which largely held off until after the show. 

Vermont-based indie rockers Sir Chloe started up early, bringing a Courtney-Barnett-but-heavier vibe, and catching ears with commanding, heavy electric riffs and catchy choruses like “Michelle, Michelle, you’re a monster from hell.” Doylestown’s own Weyes Blood followed with a set of softer Aimee-Mann-esque psych-pop with that hint of unsettling religious intonations a la Madonna. Both were excellent; both suffered from an unfairly early door time of 4:30 and a house still filling in for the night. 

Weyes Blood | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

It had grown dark by the time Phoenix hit the stage, better affording the crowd the full appreciation of a truly elaborate and well-planned light and visual arts show, and a set of perfectly pleasant pop-rock that opened and closed with their two biggest hits from 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: “Lisztomania,” and “1901,” with singer Thomas Mars low-key pandering about their day wandering the Barnes Museum somewhere in there. Sure, nothing particularly surprising here – did I mention the light show was stunning?

Phoenix | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

To the three distorted opening notes of “Devil’s Haircut,” the silhouette of Beck appeared, his blonde untamed hair reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s more recent looks, haloed by stage lighting. He wanders around a stage with one or both hands up, half-assed dance moves a little evocative of the fun drunk guy at the company Christmas party when his jam comes on (“hey, it’s the sax solo – hand me that umbrella!”).

Beck | photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

The blue-eyed frontman brought a healthy mix of selections from his back catalog, but curiously offered just two tracks (both from 2017’s Colors) from any of his records from the last fifteen years, instead focusing on favorites from Odelay, Guero, and Midnite Vultures, even digging deep for “One Foot In The Grave.” He looked comfortable, like he was having so much fun performing his lazy psych-rap stoner-soul disco slurry, and bringing the whole crowd in on iconic ‘90s hit “Loser’s” throwaway chorus of 90’s iconic casual nihilism. 

Beck "Loser" @ Mann Center, Philadelphia, Sept. 8 2023

As with Night Running, Beck again brought all three bands back to the stage for several tracks later on in the set, landing on “Where It’s At,” complete with large bouncing balloons. 

OK, so the setlist, the stage, the formula were all very similar to his show last time around – but the adage “hey if it ain’t broke” is an adage for a reason, no? 

Everyone loves a summer festival.