Beck at Budweiser Stage

Photos by Randall Vasquez

The dream of the 90’s was alive and well in Toronto as Beck and his Colors tour came through the city. Having been releasing music since the earl 90’s those that grew up listening to him are now all mature adults who have kids of their own, many of who were actually at the show. Having been to shows where there are small children isn’t totally unusual, but seeing so many certainly was out of the norm.

In a stunning move of audacity, Beck actually played his two biggest hits first off setting the crowd up right. The show started with the fuzzed out Devils Haircut off of 1996’s Odelay followed up by his breakthrough hit single Loser from 1994’s Mellow Gold. For Loser he ditched his guitar as he prowled along the stage rapping his iconic song, during the chorus the music would cut out and the audience would shout out “I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me?” gleefully.

There wasn’t banter between every song, but when there was he made it count. Giving a long rambling speech asking the audience to coordinate our schedules with him on the evening before dipping into Mixed Bizness, a deep cut from 1999’s Midnite Vultures.

After a handful of songs playing to the early year’s of his catalog he finally busted out some new tunes starting out with the lead single from the Colors album, Wow. He showed off some unique dance moves, which came from a guy who made a career out of being just a little bit weirder than the average person. When the song first came out there was a bit of fun had at Beck’s expanse turning the song into a bit of an internet meme. At the end of the song Beck made a few proclamations, to which the audience would respond with a resounding “Wow”, before asking the crowd to say Wow like Owen Wilson would, hilariously acknowledging the previously mentioned meme and adding nice level of self humour to his work.

The band left the stage for Beck to perform on his own and while waiting for his acoustic guitar to be brought out to him as his crew dealt with some technical difficulties he did a bit more crowd work telling a story about how he “always felt at home in Toronto. My dad was born in Toronto and my family is from Winnipeg” and how he felt like he was “just killing time. This is my stand up special”. When he finally got his guitar he played an acoustic version of Debra, a song that was decidedly electro funk on his Midnite Vultures album. After that he busted out a cover he has been performing on tour honouring the legendary Prince by playing Raspberry Beret getting the crowd to join in on the last chorus run through.

The band came back out for I’m So Free, before all seven backing band members came to the front of the stage to sing together Earthquake Weather another obscure track from 2005’s Guero, which apparently hasn’t been played since the Guero tour back in ‘05.

The set ended with the popular E-Pro that got the audience clapping along to the beat, before the band went full punk mode thrashing away on guitars, drums and keys. Beck, no stranger to genre shifts played a bit of everything including folk songs like Blue Moon from Morning Phase, the psychedelic Dreams from Colors to Mexican flavoured rock in Qué Onda Guero from Guero.

After a very short encore break the band returned to play the bombastic Colors, before next moving into another classic hit Where It’s At from Odeley the most critically acclaimed album of his career. After playing the song he took some time to lengthily introduce his band. Each band member got to lead a portion of a cover including songs like Miss You (The Rolling Stones), Cars (Gary Numan) and Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads), giving a unique spin to the usual rote spiels most artists just do. After the medley they played One Foot in the Grave from the self released Stereopathetic Soulmanure that came out a mere week before his breakthrough major label debut Mellow Gold in 1994.

One of Beck’s bandmates got the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to their frontman as he was to celebrate his 48th a day later on July 8th. Afterwards the band kicked back into Where It’s At for one last refrain on the night. A career spanning over 25 years had songs pulled from every era. His show is especially impressive when you compare the setlist to other shows on the tour, which while feature the same hit songs, the non-singles seem to interchange nightly making sure that not only Beck, but also his band must be well versed in his large catalog. If every 90’s act put in as much effort as Beck does they would still be as relevant as he is, which is no small feat.