Live Review: Beck @ Birmingham Academy


by Elizabeth Aitken

Beck Look up the word genius in the dictionary and you will find it defined as exceptional natural ability; flair, ingenuity, wit, and naturalness. It should simply say Beck Hansen.

If you don't agree, you didn't see Beck on his recent foray to the UK. At the Birmingham Academy on a sweltering Wednesday night, I witnessed genius firsthand.

From the moment Beck walked out onstage, with only his acoustic guitar and harmonica for company, and opened with an acoustic blues number, punctuated with gut wrenching harmonica, everyone in that room seemed to agree.

As the spotlight closed in on Beck's outstretched hand holding a tambourine, and the rest of his band emerged on stage to start romping through "Novacane" and "New Pollution," the eclectic mix of people on and off the stage rocked out in unashamed appreciation.

"Hollywood Freaks" and "Loser" swiftly followed a surprisingly sedate cover of David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs," which is when anyone, with any sense of reserve, finally lost it. The madcap band of cape crusaders, funky Afros and chic coolness is mirrored in the audience, where skaters rock alongside High Street Twinkies and their Indie boyfriends.

The space invaders dance routines early in the set and the audience participation during "Hotwax" are delivered with such a refreshing sense of irony that I had to throw back my head and laugh with the joy of it all.

In a move reminiscent of Courtney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video, Beck picked several characters out of the audience to dance onstage through "Mixed Bizness" and "Nicotine and Gravy," making several girls' and guys' dreams come true and shattering several hundred others.

The set slows into the hauntingly poignant "Beautiful Way" and "Nobody's Fault," which is when, unfortunately, only the diehards are left singing their hearts and souls out to drown out the chattering Philistines.

Finishing the main set with "Where It's At," the crowd screamed for more and, after what seemed like an eternity, Beck returned to the stage in a fibre optic suit, glowing like an apparition and lighting up the beaming faces of the audience. Beck and his gang brought the crowd to a shuddering and rather bizarre climax with "Sexx Laws."

As Beck wraps the stage in Police Line tape and his band throw themselves around like lemmings, an overwhelming sense of dread beganto descend as the audience realised that its all over.

Spend a night in the company of Mr Hansen and friends and you come away feeling as if you have attended an intimate soiree, along with a thousand friends, invited by the man himself.

And that's the Genius.