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Beck and Cage the Elephant at Ak-Chin Pavilion
July 21 @ 6:00 pm - 11:30 pm
Beck has traveled light years from emerging as a reluctant generational spokesperson when “Loser” exploded from a rejected demo in 1992 into a ubiquitous smash by 1994. In the decades since, Beck’s singular career has seen him utilize all manners and eras of music, blurring boundaries and blazing a path into the future while simultaneously foraging through the past.
Surfacing just as alternative rock went mainstream, no small thanks to his 1994 debut Mellow Gold, Beck quickly confounded expectations with subsequent releases including the lo-fi folk of One Foot in the Grave. But the album that truly cemented Beck’s place in the pantheon was 1996’s multi-platinum Best Alternative Grammy winner Odelay, that touched upon all of his obsessions, providing a cultural keystone for the decade from the indelible hook of “Devil’s Haircut” to the irresistible call and response of the Grammy-winning anthem “Where It’s At.”
From the world-tripping atmospherics of 1998’s Mutations (his second album to win the Best Alternative Grammy) and the florescent funk of 1999’s Midnite Vultures through the somber reflections of 2002’s Sea Change, 2005’s platinum tour de force Guero and 2006’s sprawling The Information, no Beck record has ever sounded like its predecessor. In the interim following 2008’s acclaimed Danger Mouse-produced Modern Guilt and the Grammy-nominated standalone single “Timebomb,” Beck eschewed the typical album/tour/repeat cycle of the music business. Instead, he expanded into multi-media endeavors including a one-time-only live re-imagining of David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” utilizing 160+ musicians in a 360-degree audiovisual production, and the equally unprecedented Beck Hansen’s Song Reader, originally released December 2012 by McSweeney’s as 20 songs existing only as individual pieces of sheet music–complete with full-color original art for each song and a lavishly produced hardcover carrying case (and since recorded as an actual album by the likes of Jack White, Juanes, Norah Jones, David Johansen, Beck himself and many others).
Beck’s creative tide continued unabated throughout 2013 with three standalone singles released digitally and on 12-inch vinyl (“Defriended,” “I Won’t Be Long,” Gimme”), custom-created performances for Doug Aitken’s Station to Station series of transient happenings, life-affirming headline dates, and special Song Reader events in which Beck and eclectic line-ups brought the book to life for a few unforgettable evenings staged in San Francisco, London, and at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
Beck opened 2014 with the 12th–and possibly most well received―album of a peerless career: Morning Phase. Likened by some to a companion piece of sorts to his 2002 masterpiece Sea Change, Morning Phase featured many of the same musicians who played on that record–and who also accompanied Beck for the rapturously received world tour supporting the record: Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, Roger Joseph Manning Jr., and Jason Falkner. Featuring the hits “Blue Moon” and “Heart Is A Drum” along with instant classics like “Waking Light” and “Wave”, Morning Phase harkened back to the stunning harmonies, classic Californian song craft and staggering emotional impact of that record, while surging forward with infectious optimism.
Morning Phase debuted at #3 in the U.S.—besting Modern Guilt’s debut week despite the market being down more than 70% since that record’s release six years prior—and generating a rare unanimous chorus of critical acclaim from the likes of THE NEW YORKER (“a triumph… After listening to Morning Phase 50 times, I can’t find a single thing wrong with it… You don’t get many albums like this in your lifetime… I can’t imagine someone who couldn’t find some succor or beauty here”), ROLLING STONE (“an instant folk-rock classic… feels as personal as it does universal”—4 ½ STARS), THE NEW YORK TIMES (“The record’s beauty approaches slowly, floats, surrounds and shuts off external awareness in the brain stem”), NPR (“If we needed any proof that albums still matter in this short-attention-span world, Beck’s flawless 12th album, Morning Phase, is a triumphant testimony”), and more. Morning Phase closed out 2014 atop year-end best lists, with highlights such as #1 Album of 2014 in ESQUIRE (“no album in recent memory taps into our cultural zeitgeist as effortlessly. This is what it sounds like to come to peace with everyday ambiguity and indecision.”) and a slew of others including ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (“Each song swims by with gorgeous melancholy, as though he’d found the only acoustic guitar on the moon”).
Beck rolled into 2015 taking the Album of the Year top honor at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, as well as the prize for Best Rock Album. Morning Phase also won in the Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) category. With three previous Grammy wins to his credit, Beck walked away from attending and performing at the 2015 ceremony with double his previous Grammy tally.
The music has flowed from Beck without pause since: from globe-spanning live shows consistently hailed as the best of his storied career to the 2015 psych-dance summer jam “Dreams” that NPR hailed as “urgently contemporary and irresistibly vintage,” USA TODAY labelled “a strong contender for song of the summer,” and ROLLING STONE raved “This funky little groove is giving us Midnite Vultures flashbacks in the best way possible.” This creative watershed couldn’t even be confined to Beck’s output under his own name, as evidenced by sublime collaborations including the Chemical Brothers’ “Wide Open” and Flume’s “Tiny Cities.”
“Dreams” gave Beck his second #1 single at AAA radio (the first being Morning Phase’s “Blue Moon”) as he continued feverishly working up sketches at home to be fleshed out with producer Greg Kurstin (coincidentally a veteran of Beck’s live band circa Sea Change). In summer 2016, a next single, “Wow,” was unveiled in all its fluorescent mutant hip hop glory. And accompanying the retro-futuristic earworm was a virtual “Wow” world built with the help of a global collective of creators on Instagram.
Both songs showed up alongside infectious third single “Up All Night” on Beck’s 13th studio album, Colors, hailed in advance by ROLLING STONE as a “euphoric blast of experimental pop,” and released October 13, 2017 on Capitol Records. Possibly the most aptly titled work in Beck’s storied discography, Colors unfolds in an intoxicating rainbow of auditory tricks and treats, rendering it a shoo-in for the summeriest smash of 2017’s fall season. From the captivating piano-driven “Dear Life,” which elicited Beatles and Beach Boys comparisons from THE NEW YORK TIMES, to the irresistible title track and its visual feast of a video directed by Edgar Wright, Colors was yet another commercial and critical milestone for Beck—one that debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 and went on to win Best Alternative Music Album (Beck’s third) and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical (the second Beck album to do so) at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards in 2019.
Colors was produced by Greg Kurstin and Beck, with the exception of “Wow” produced by Beck and Cole M.G.N., and “Fix Me” produced by Beck. The album was mixed by Serban Ghenea, except “Dreams” and “Up All Night,” which were mixed by Greg Kurstin and Beck.
The touring regimen around Colors kicked off with a headlining run that generated yet more of the most enthusiastic notices of Beck’s live career—and included some of Beck’s biggest plays to date, including his first ever headlining stand at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Beck then accepted U2’s invite to join The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 as special guest on a series of dates that ran September 3 at Ford Field in Detroit through September 22, 2017 at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. And as the Colors world tour continued, so too did the outpouring of accolades:
“A polished, career-spanning performance…emphasized Beck’s unparalleled stylistic versatility.” —ROLLING STONE
“… left everybody who witnessed it enthralled… Beck, being an entertainer, understands the profundity in getting a crowded room full of people dancing and smiling.”—WASHINGTON POST
“an undeniably fun record…sounded more impressive played by Beck’s unassailable live band… we could use all the slaying we can get from a band as good as the one he’s assembled.”—VARIETY
“Charmingly eclectic… His stage show is magnificent.”—ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
“Like a Fine Wine, Beck Gets Better with Age… time seemed held at bay.”—DALLAS OBSERVER
“captivating… left no doubt that wherever Beck’s at — whether it’s stadium or theater — is the right place to be.”—OAKLAND PRESS
More recently, Beck offered fans a glimpse of the future in the form of the stunning surprise single, “Saw Lightning.” Featuring Beck’s unmistakable raw acoustic slide guitar and harmonica playing, “Saw Lightning” was written and produced by Beck and Pharrell Williams, who contributed drums, keyboards and mumbles. “Saw Lightning” was released April 15, 2019 both as a single and as the perfect music to power the new Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats Pro campaign, a high-energy film directed by Grammy Award-winning filmmaker Hiro Murai.
“Saw Lightning” is the first track to be released from Beck’s forthcoming 14th album, Hyperspace, to be released via Capitol Records at an as yet undetermined point in the space time continuum. In the meantime, Beck fans can tide themselves over with his current co-headline tour with Cage The Elephant, whose single “Night Running” features and unforgettable and unmistakable Beck guest turn.
Deeply inspired by punk music, brothers Matt and Brad Shultz began playing music in high-school with fellow students Jared Champion and Daniel Tichenor. Shortly after forming the band, they made the bold move to London to begin their career. Their self-titled debut album gained them international attention, catapulting them up the Billboard Alternative and Rock charts and achieving Platinum certification. Cage the Elephant has released three additional studio albums – 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday, the Gold-certified Melophobia and the GRAMMY®-winning Tell Me I’m Pretty. At radio, Cage The Elephant holds the record for the most #1 Alternative songs of any artist this decade. Their most recent release was their expansive live album, Unpeeled, which found the band performing stripped down and backed by a string quartet and a choir. Based in Nashville, Cage The Elephant is vocalist Matt Shultz, rhythm guitarist Brad Shultz, drummer Jared Champion, bassist Daniel Tichenor, lead guitarist Nick Bockrath and keyboardist Matthan Minster.
Hot Thoughts, Spoon’s 9th album, is the bravest, most sonically inventive work of their career, though keep in mind, Britt Daniel has already overseen a number of other reincarnations. With all due respect to earlier efforts that have made the band both critically acclaimed and a commercial contender, preconceptions about Spoon are about to be obliterated. That’s not to say Hot Thoughts doesn’t have a requisite supply of infectious earworms — WE DIDN’T SAY THIS WAS A DIFFERENT BAND (though this is the first Spoon album with no acoustic guitar) — but there’s a lyrical bent that’s as carnal as it’s crafty, and a newfound sense of sonic exploration that results in the genre-smasher Spoon have flirted with in the past but not fully consummated.
The ten songs on Hot Thoughts run the gamut from the kaleidoscopic opening title track (as tone-setting as say, “Dirty Mind” for the album it commences) through the gargantuan stomp of “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and ubiquitous wiry hooks of “Can I Sit Next To You” to the bittersweetness of “I Ain’t The One” and the deadpan swing of “Tear It Down” — less the telling of an apocalyptic vision and more what Daniel describes as a song about “empathy for strangers.”
Ample recognition should be tossed in the direction of Dave Fridmann, whose wizard-level ingenuity has brought a diabolical sheen to the band’s swagger (there may be many great ways to occupy one’s time in Cassadaga, New York, but we do know that holing up at Fridmann’s studio to make a masterpiece is one of them).
Without question, the prior works of Daniel, drummer Jim Eno, bassist Rob Pope and no-longer-a-secret weapon Alex Fischel have scaled some lofty heights (from 1996 debut LP Telephono, 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks, 2001’s Girls Can Tell, 2002’s Kill The Moonlight, 2005’s recently reissued in deluxe 10th anniversary grandeur Gimme Fiction, through the trifecta of U.S. Top 10 albums that was Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007), Transference (2010) and They Want My Soul (2014), you’re talking about a winning streak that’s nothing short of Mayweather-esque), but Hot Thoughts is a daring, futuristic chapter in the Spoon story. Daniel’s spot in the pantheon of rock’s genius songwriters was established long ago—but with the crackling, incandescent, multi-dimensional backdrop conjured on Hot Thoughts, the lines between accessible and experimental become non-factors for once and all. It’s pop as high art, delivered with total confidence and focus.
Punk rockers Starcrawler formed in 2015 in Los Angeles, California and quickly formed a sound and attitude that placed them somewhere between the punk/hard rock of fellow L.A. natives the Runawaysand the shock tactics of legendary metal influencers Black Sabbath. The seeds of the band were sown at Grand Arts High School when Arrow de Wilde met Henri Cash and he asked her to join the fledgling music project he’d started with Austin Smith. As the daughter of musician Aaron Sperske (Beachwood Sparks, Ariel Pink) and photographer Autumn de Wilde — along with her experience as a model for Teen Vogue and a spot in a Lena Dunham-directed Bleachers video — her popular culture credentials were already established. Taking up lead vocal duties, she, along with Cash (guitar) and Smith (drums), swiftly recorded the first Starcrawler single, “Ants.” Tim Franco was enlisted on bass shortly thereafter, and the single was picked up by Elton John for his Beats 1 radio show.
Cash and de Wilde became the band’s primary songwriters, and they gigged extensively across L.A. with psych-rock revivalists the Lemon Twigs. Starcrawler rapidly built a reputation for their wildly campy and theatrical performances. De Wilde made prolific use of fake blood on-stage — no doubt a nod to her hero Ozzy Osbourne — and often donned a hospital gown or a straitjacket for shows. At an in-store set at Amoeba Music, the band was introduced to Beck‘s ten-year-old daughter, Tuesday Hansen, who would later appear in the cover art for Starcrawler‘s debut record in a blood-stained dress. They spent 2017 touring hard, appearing at the Foo Fighters‘ Cal Jam in San Bernardino, Echo Park Rising in L.A., and the Joshua Tree Happening Desert Daze. Their live performances caught the eyes and ears of Ryan Adams, who went on to record the band’s first album to analog tape at his own Pax-Am Studio. Their self-titled debut long-player was released by the independent label Rough Trade in January of 2018.