Beck once again proved why he’s one compelling and eclectic artists of the past 20 years at his Coachella set on Sunday night. The alternative rock icon performed an hour-long, career-spanning set that repurposed old favorites in new arrangements and included a cover of the Donna Summer disco classic “I Feel Love.”
Making his return to Coachella, where he was among the headliners at the festival’s inaugural edition in 1999, Beck remarked near the end of his set, “15 years later, and we are back for the first time, on the same stage, with the same band.” His longtime band was locked in as they played a set heavy on classic material, largely forgoing songs from his new album, the lovely but subdued Morning Phase.
After opening with two of his best-known hits -- “Devil’s Haircut” and “Loser” -- Beck and his band launched into a set that drew from all corners of his varied discography. The group found novel ways to rearrange songs like “Black Tambourine” and “Think I’m in Love,” with the latter seguing into the aforementioned “I Feel Love” cover. The band performed a “new version” of “Gamma Ray” from Modern Guilt before launching into a dazzling rendition of “Soldier Jane,” a standout cut from The Information.
The gorgeous “Blue Moon” was the only song the band played from Morning Phase, which was followed by the folksy “The Golden Age.” After the more mellow material, “Girl” got the crowd’s blood pumping again, and that was followed by fan-favorite “Debra,” one of Beck’s best and funniest songs, which he augmented with Coachella-specific references.
They finished off the set with a medley of “Where It’s At/ One Foot in the Grave/ High 5 (Rock the Catskills)” a trio of tunes that exemplify the breadth of Beck’s abilities. Unfortunately, like Outkast before him, Beck’s set was running long and the strict 1 a.m. curfew forced organizers to cut his mic mid-song. Despite the unceremonious ending, Beck seemed to take it in stride, as he and his band -- including his adorable, tambourine-playing son Cosimo -- showed off a few dance moves before taking a final bow together.
Beck has become such a meticulous producer and razor-sharp songwriter that it was a real pleasure to see such a loose and festival-friendly set. “This Coachella seemed like a good idea” he told the crowd regarding his initial thoughts on the festival. Based on the arm-waving response to “Where It’s At,” those who attended his show would probably say the same thing.
Beck has series of shows and festival dates scheduled throughout the summer, including a show on April 24 at the Abraham Chavez Theatre in El Paso, TX.