Beck found himself in a prime time slot at 5:30 Saturday evening at Bonnaroo, essentially acting as the opener for Radiohead. In honor of the two bands, the audience started to gather early in the day.
In fact, I was awakened that morning by his sound check and judging from the claps and screams accompanying his practice session, Beck began to woo the crowd early.
By the time his show started, the open field in front of What Stage was packed, reaching the main gate. Beck was playful and fun, busting out with “Devil’s Haircut” and a puppet sideshow on the huge screens framing the stage on both sides.
His set was pure entertainment, with him giving the people the songs they wanted to hear and mixing it up a bit. He breezed through my current fave “Emergency Exit” to a thumping version of “Clap Hands.” He played the original recording of “Loser” in lieu of singing it himself, but that’s understandable. How sick must he be of that song?
He did get me a little misty-eyed with his somber acoustic rendition of “Lost Cause,” an intimate song I lovingly refer to as my ode to Murfreesboro. He segued into a cover of The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize?” while his band grabbed some grub in the background. I never realized he had such a strong voice, since he tends to blend genres on his albums and often gets overshadowed by the music.
Let me get back to the puppets, which were hilarious, even starring in their own five-minute short aired during intermission. The video was Bonnaroo-themed and showed the puppets (created to look like each band member) walking around Centeroo and making clever little remarks about the scene, cracking on the “strange but mysterious oils” and drum circles, singing “I’m a creep. I’m a puppet,” a nod to Radiohead.
The crowning moment was when he got the crowd hyped with a highly-charged version of “Where It’s At,” with everyone jumping around and screaming along with him.
Beck could’ve faded into one-hit wonder obscurity after 1994’s “Loser,” but thankfully he’s been steadily putting out quality CDs for over a decade. He is such an innovative artist and hearing a variety of his work in one setting deepens my appreciation for him.