Pixel Tracker

Monday, December 17 , 2018, 5:16 am | Light Rain 54º


Jeff Moehlis: Beck Is Back, at the Bowl

Artist's first tour in four years makes early stop in Santa Barbara

During his concert Thursday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Beck joked that “You are witnessing the shedding of the cobwebs, so to speak.”

Beck is back on tour for the first time in four years, and this was the official kick-off after a warm-up gig a few days before at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. He was joined by his Sea Change-era band Smokey Hormel (guitar), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (bass), Roger Manning (keyboards) and Joey Waronker (drums) for the first time in about a decade. So there were, understandably, a few cobwebs to be shed. Be that as it may, they still sounded great as they covered nearly two decades worth of Beck’s songs.

Like Beck’s career, the concert started with his absurdist anthem “Loser.” This is the one that put Beck on the map, deftly mixing rock, blues and hip-hop influences into a catchy package that still sounds pretty unique today.

Customizing his show to the Santa Barbara Bowl, Beck dedicated one song to 'every guitar solo ever played in this very venue in the 1980s.' (Garrett Geyer / Noozhawk photo)
Customizing his show to the Santa Barbara Bowl, Beck dedicated one song to “every guitar solo ever played in this very venue in the 1980s.” (Garrett Geyer / Noozhawk photo)

Early in the show, there was an extended visit to Beck’s 2002 break-up acoustic album Sea Change with the songs “The Golden Age,” “Lost Cause,” “End of the Day” and “Sunday Sun,” and, later, “Paper Tiger” and “Guess
I’m Doin’ Fine.” While I prefer the rock-hip-hop-hybrid portion of Beck’s diverse catalog, this did remind the audience of his skills in the mellow singer-songwriter vein. Of course, it also made a lot of sense, given the make-up of the band.

An early highlight was “Hotwax,” with some cool bass synth sounds and an out-there guitar solo that Beck dedicated to “every guitar solo ever played in this very venue in the 1980s.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the solo fell apart a bit, and afterward Beck joked that “I got caught up in the guitar solo and couldn’t get out.” This nicely illustrated two of the greatest things about Beck: he isn’t afraid to take musical chances, and he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Beck joked a bit more with the audience throughout the concert. One of the best, when an overhead helicopter was heard, he said, “Nothing like a helicopter in the midsummer evening. Reminds me of my childhood” in Los Angeles, when police helicopters were out and about. This time the helicopter was perhaps just taking overhead footage of the show, which was being professionally (and only slightly intrusively) filmed for an unspecified purpose.

To me, the highlight of the show was the run-through of songs off Beck’s 1996 masterwork Odelay at the end of the main set: “Minus,” “Devil’s Haircut,” “Where It’s At” and “The New Pollution.” “Where It’s At” particularly ignited the crowd with its mix of Doors-style keyboards, trippy lyrics and hip-hop vibe. “I got two turntables and a microphone!”

For an encore, Beck played a punked-up, almost unrecognizable, and very cool version of “Girl,” and the raucous “E-Pro,” during which Beck’s blond-haired son, Cosimo, almost stole the show with some sweet dance moves (check it out here. I predict big things for that little guy.

Who knows what curveball is coming next from Beck, but for now, it’s just great that he is back on tour, at the Bowl and beyond.

Black Tambourine
Think I’m In Love
The Golden Age
Lost Cause
End of the Day
Sunday Sun
Soul of a Man
Paper Tiger
Modern Guilt
Soldier Jane
Guess I’m Doin’ Fine
Gamma Ray
Devil’s Haircut
Where It’s At
The New Pollution


Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.