BeckRialto Theatre, Saturday, June 24
After the plug was pulled on opening band Wounded Cougar (who could be the subject of their own live review), the audience had to wait 45 minutes in the newly air-conditioned (but still sweltering) Rialto before the real Beck entourage took stage. The sweat was worth it, though--Beck is not only a rare act to grace Tucson; he's a rare one-name celebrity. It's not just about him onstage--his live shows seem designed to deflect attention away from the man himself. For this particular tour, he has a geeky male go-go dancer and a team of expert puppetmasters who perform a marionette version of the live show as it happens, which is projected onto the screen behind the stage.
The whole sprawling ensemble kicked things off with "Devil's Haircut" and then "Black Tambourine." The band played most of the upbeat songs from Guero ("Girl," "Que' Onda Guero," "Hell Yes" and "Scarecrow"), and then Beck slowed things down for "Lost Cause," off of 2002's Sea Change. The whole band huddled to the side of the stage to play some of Beck's more folky numbers, and then the man himself was left alone with his acoustic guitar. After a short version of The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" the rest of the band sat down at a table set up onstage and proceeded to order drinks and food as if they were in a saloon. Beck went into harmonica and slide guitar mode, playing songs like "Farewell Ride" and "Go It Alone" as the band provided percussion via the bowls and glasses on their table.
As flawlessly as things slowed down, they picked right back up again with "Clap Hands." After the band left the stage, the audience was treated to a short video about Tucson, starring the puppets as they visited landmarks like Hotel Congress, where they were scared by a "ghost," which turned out to be Beck Puppet in a sheet. The puppet band broke into "Loser" and "1000 BPM" (with the help of some rapping grizzly bears), and then the real band came back on for "Where It's At."
"E-Pro" was the final song of the encore: As puppets, dancers, musicians and puppetmasters wreaked havoc on stage, it was clear that not only can Beck constantly redefine his sound; his live shows constantly redefine concert entertainment.