At his performance at the Grand Sierra Resort Thursday, Beck, the mid-1990s “voice of the slacker generation” alternative rocker and experimenter, delivered the hits that the sold-out crowd wanted.
“Where It’s At.”
But despite the theater singing along to radio hits and an impressive backdrop video screen with indecipherable images on it, Beck fell short. And he fell short by a couple of seconds.
Lyrics were not as punchy as their radio counterparts, thereby slowing the tempo of memorable fast-paced songs. Beck’s stage presence was bland for the first part of the set, as he barely peeked out from behind his large floppy hat, uncharacteristic of someone who is known for stage antics.
The use of synthesizers, a turntable and recordings of strange sounds make Beck’s music blend eclectically well, but work better for him and his music if pre-recorded. His impromptu, live performance proved that, despite his success as an innovative musical artist, the live stage is not a place to struggle to keep up with your own rap-paced verses.
In comparison, opening act Devendra Banhart put on a compelling live performance, as his acoustic guitars and folk-sounding music were conducive to a live setting. Improv and intermittent jokes about Reno surprised an audience, a majority of which did not know of Banhart or his music before, but left that night trying to buy his CD at the merchandise stand.
Beck played more recent hits like “Gamma Ray” off the new record, “Modern Guilt” and “E-Pro” off of the 2005 record “Guero” and was still enjoyable though, drawing crowds pushing their way to the already packed front stage area. Many danced, feeling a kinship for an artist that they had grown up listening to.
Beck’s bashful demeanor soon wore off and accompanied by a strong supporting band, was able, while not entirely, to redeem himself and his ability to surprise listeners. One song was simply Beck on a guitar while his band members all took a sound sampler and pressed buttons in a jam session of guitar riffs and electronic sounds of bells and chimes.
During another song, an audience member was chosen prior to the concert to “guest perform” on a tambourine to the song “Black Tambourine.”
Even crowd favorite Banhart was invited back onstage to perform a cover of the Bob Dylan song “Leopard-Skin Pill Box” with Beck. But while both Beck and Banhart paid a fitting tribute to Dylan with a modern alternative twist, it was distracting to see both artists reading the lyrics on a paper taped to the floor below them.
Afterward, though, there wasn’t a single person who left the concert disappointed. Beck’s signature flair for music compilation including punk, rock, indie, jazz and rap genres cement him as a musical icon and explain his long-withstanding popularity.
To put it another way, the audience enjoyed and sung along to his countless memorable hits and undeniable musical talent, just at a slightly slower and easier to enunciate pace.