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Concert Reviews:
Beck doubles up for extra-hot show at the Fox

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- An M.I.A. opening act wasn't Beck Hansen's problem, really. But the pop auteur used it as an opportunity to present an extra-special kind of show on Saturday night, June 28, at the Fox Theatre.

When Sean Lennon's Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger missed the date "for reasons beyond our control" (Fox personnel told concert-goers there were problems crossing the Canadian border) Beck decided to split his first metro area concert in many years into two parts -- one to showcase quieter, acoustic-flavored material and the other filled with "more rowdy" fare. The resolve, and the result, gave the nearly sold-out Fox crowd more music than Beck normally plays in a given night (26 songs total) as well as detailed looks at two sides of his multi-faceted musical personality.

The so-called "acoustic" portion was hardly laid back, mind you. Spotlighting songs from this year's "Morning Phase" and 2002's "Sea Change," Beck and his tight six-piece band deftly delivered rich, melodic arrangements of "The Golden Age," "Blackbird Chain," "Country Down," "Heart is a Drum" and more, executing the delicate, chiming instrumental balance and rich, multi-part vocal harmonies. He also dug deep for the unreleased "Dead Melodies," a song he was commissioned to write for Johnny Cash but felt too "intimidated" to actually send to him.

But that 10-song, 40-minute romp was indeed the night's appetizer. The electric set was more than a main course, an explosive dance party that hit the ground running with the fierce groove of "Devil's Haircut" and didn't let up for the entirety of its 75 minutes. It too was a celebration of Beck's diversity, steering through the psychedelic funk of "Black Tambourine" and "New Pollution," the hip-hop leanings of "Que Onda Guero" and "Loser" and the New Wavey pop flavors of "Soldier Jane," "Girl" and "Modern Guilt." Beck and company -- including studio mainstays Smokey Hormel on guitar, Roger Joseph Manning Jr. on keyboards and Joey Waronker on drums -- morphed the synthetic dance groove of "I Think I'm in Love" into Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," while the rarely performed "Get Real Paid" paid homage to "1999"-era Prince.

Sporting a dark suit and hat, Beck was his usual dancing fool self, his loosely choreographed moves nodding, tongue in cheek, to forebears such as James Brown and Michael Jackson. "E-Pro" ended the main show on a riotous note, with the band members knocking each other to the floor and Beck wrapping the stage with yellow crime scene tape. "Sexx Laws" started the encore on a funky note, while "Debra" and "Where It's At" were extended with earnest good humor, the latter even incorporating a bit of the title track from Beck's 1994 debut album, "One Foot in the Grave."

"It's been a long time, Detroit." Beck -- who referenced his first area performance, at the Detroit Science Center during the mid-90s -- told the crowd as he returned for the encore. "I hope we didn't let you down." He could rest assured that was hardly the case, and that the loss of an opening act was a gain for those who came to see him on Saturday.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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