There’s funky Beck, who sings hip-hop infused party jams and acts a fool on stage, and then there’s sad Beck, whose breakup slow songs have a tendency to make actual breakups look fun in comparison.
Audiences are never quite sure which Beck is going to show up, but Saturday night at the Fox Theatre, the crowd was treated to both thanks to a glitch in the touring itinerary. Opening act the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger couldn’t make the show – Sean Lennon’s band was reportedly held up at the Canadian border – so Beck and his six-piece band decided to open up for themselves.
The band opened with an acoustic 10-song, 45-minute set of moody, introspective slow songs, culled mostly from this year’s “Morning Phase” and its spiritual forebear, 2002’s “Sea Change.” Afterward, it was time to party, with Beck and his crew returning for a 16-song, 75-minute celebration, focusing on the goofy, good-time jams from Beck’s 20-plus year catalog of goofy, good-time jams.
The splitting of the evening in two worked so well that you wondered why there was an opening band scheduled at all. There is enough Beck to go around for everybody, and certainly enough that he can capably open for himself.
The show – Beck’s first Detroit concert since 2005 – opened with “The Golden Age.” The “Sea Change” opener set the pace for the set that followed, as Beck worked through the slow material that makes up his latest album. “Morning Phase” can be a trying listen, but the songs were given a gorgeous live presentation, especially the haunting “Morning.” A few rarities were mixed in as well; he introduced the “Mutations” track “Dead Melodies” by saying it was a song he wrote for Johnny Cash (but never submitted to him), and he also dusted off “Sleeping Bag,” a deep cut off of “One Foot in the Grave.”
The acoustic opener was a classy appetizer for the set of party rock that followed, and the 43-year-old showed he’s still a hip-hop loving goofball with an arsenal of pop-and-lock dance steps at his disposal. The set opened with “Devil’s Haircut” and never slowed pace, stopping off at hits such as “The New Pollution,” “E-Pro” and Beck’s 1993 slacker anthem “Loser.” (The rarity from the set was “Midnight Vultures’” “Get Real Paid,” which Beck said he never gets to play live.)
After “E-Pro,” Beck taped off the front of the stage area like a crime scene, but returned several minutes later for a knockout encore of “Sexx Laws,” “Debra” and an elongated “Where It’s At.” For the latter, Beck dragged things out and did a rock and roll preacher shtick that showed he’s still got a way to go before becoming Bruce Springsteen. But it was fun to see him having fun, and Saturday’s crowd was treated to the best of Beck's two disparate worlds.