A brief exchange about slippery ice isn’t usually a mind-blowing thing, unless Beck is the person traversing the frosty sidewalk with you. The 5-time Grammy winner arrived at 7pm on the dot in a Cadillac SUV, flanked by a few burly men in black suits; the first snowflakes of the year accumulating quickly on his brimmed black hat. And though he was moving with haste, remarkably, he made time for a warm greeting and one of his sincere grins – almost as if he’d feel impolite simply passing by quietly. The momentary run-in is worth noting, not only because it’s a rarity with someone of his stature, and illustrates the exposed nature of Spring Studios, the chic Lower Manhattan event space where last night’s private show took place. But mainly because, strikingly, it’s the same way he treats each person in the crowd when he’s on stage performing. That special presence is something a very small group – no more than a couple hundred fans – got to experience up close yesterday evening at an exclusive show presented by Hilton Honors; a non-ticketed, members-only event with an entry fee of 60,000 points. By the looks on everyone’s faces at the end of the night, it was worth that and much more.
A small-venue performance by Beck is a huge treat on its own, so the bonus of an open bar, flavorful feast, and highly-attentive staff made the event all the more lavish. If the hot sliders, pretzel melts, and chicken & waffles somehow weren’t to your liking, there were countless other appetizers flying around the room on fancy platters. Even better, there was more than enough space to stand at the very front of the low stage, for all those who’d arrived early hoping to do so. And hilariously enough, Beck couldn’t help but poke fun at the luxurious setting and the crowd’s elite status before his performance was through. “Do you guys need a foot massage or anything?” he asked in a serious tone between songs. “We’ll upgrade you to gold status. I’ll give you some apricot exfoliants,” he ribbed, the audience giggling in response. Beck’s hit-filled set, lit aflame by the technical badassery of his 7-piece ensemble, was rich with similar glimpses of his wit and good energy. “We can do whatever we want,” he proclaimed early on, sounding serene and cooler-than-cool, as he so often does. “We’re just gonna have a good time. We’re just gonna see what happens,” he foreshadowed with a grin.
What happened was “Devils Haircut,” “Black Tambourine,” and “Loser” right off the bat, a satisfying start that yanked the audience into a long-lasting fit of dancing. With the band’s strong backup vocals, killer bass and percussion, and the intricate guitar work of Jason Falkner and Beck himself, everything clicked into place beautifully. As they cruised through the grooves of “The New Pollution,” “Think I’m In Love” and “Mixed Bizness,” audiophiles marveled at the venue’s clear acoustics, and Beckphiles soaked up his inimitable delivery and unchanged vocal sound. To the thrill of all the classic rock fans in the room, Beck also brought us an awesome cover of Lou Reed’s “I’m Waiting for the Man,” for which he provided a meaningful introduction. “We were asked to do a song about New York City, and so much music is made in this city that inspired me to play music,” Beck explained thoughtfully, while the many hands holding phones rushed to capture the moment. “And when I started thinking about New York music, there’s one person that came right to my mind – and that’s Lou Reed of The Velvet Underground. So this kind of goes back to the 60s, when they were hanging with Andy Warhol and…changing music; inspiring everyone.” That’s really all it took; he’d pulled us back in time, and we joined him in the 1960s New York dreamscape with ease.
Even with such a pulse-racing setlist and the flurry of mixed-media visuals twisting behind him, Beck seemed fully conscious of the opportunity to share a few meditative moments and take us out of the concert setting. “It looks so peaceful out there,” he commented blissfully at one point, stopping to peer through the floor-to-ceiling windows adjacent to the stage, which framed a hazy view of the snow-dusted city below. Then it was right back to partying, as he and his band cooked up the newer jams – including “Colors,” “Wow,” “Dreams,” and “Up All Night,” which most fans up front had memorized – before closing with a scream-worthy finale of “Girl,” “E-Pro,” and “Where It’s At.” The final song benefitted from Beck’s unpredictable, leisurely mood last night, because he completely stopped it in its tracks to announce each of his bandmates, a ritual that gave way to a sampling of well-known jams before they returned to their two turntables and a microphone. He tossed his towel into outstretched hands, tipped his hat cordially, and more than anything else, left us with the wonder of all the cool musical things that still hide within this city’s walls.
Photos: Shayne Hanley
Article: Olivia Isenhart