Announced on the Friday, and sold out in 45 minutes, Islington Academy – a shopping centre store room with the soul sucked out of it – is the venue for the return of Beck Hanson. Ever since the Channel 4 sitcom Nathan Barley began, critical voices have complained that the East London fashionistas it satirises vanished years ago. You suspect critical voices would be immediately silenced upon entering the Islington Academy tonight. It’s a sea of lamentable headgear and bleeding-edge mobile phone technology. At any moment, a game of cock, muff, bumhole might break out.

I’d dashed across London for the opening time of 730 due to a misguided fear that he wouldnt have support and we’d miss him, unfortunatly Beck didnt grace us with his presence until gone 930. Still that gave me two hours in which to ponder if the badly mixed selection of tunes was the much feted Mylo on the wheels of steel, or if infact they’d just stuck on a Dance Hits 40 CD. By 9 a lynching party could easily have been mustered just to get Mylo off the decks so we can get on with proceedings. “Ooh a DJ set!” people sneer sarcastically.

Having heard about Becks famed stage antics, from the famous MTV lights outfit to Princeesque splits it was a bit of a surprise when Beck ambled on stage in a black jacket, baseball cap pulled over his head, like a famous person in the street trying not be noticed.
It has to be said that at first I didnt even notice Beck due to the presence next to him of what can only be describded as the bastard love child of Jamiroqui and Jackie Chan. Bez lopes around stage, this guy bounds about in White plastic shades, white anorak, and white jeans with a beard that makes him look strangely like Noel Edmonds whose soul has been possesed by. He jazz danced, he karate chopped, he generally distracted everyone from Beck. I have to admit I laughed out loud, and pondered if the poor fella had been raised him on a diet of Breakdance Electric Boogaloo, and Metal Mickey VHS’s.

Starting the set with a run of seven new songs, from an album that in theory no one in the audience had heard before (being law abiding citizens after all) is a tall order for any act let alone one struggling with a bad case of jet lag, and constantly fiddling with his vocal levels.

  • ’Black Tambourine’
  • ’Devil’s Haircut’
  • ’Scarecrow’
  • ’We Dance Alone’
  • ’Guero’
  • ‘Girl’
  • ’Knock You Out’
  • ’Missing’
  • ’Go It Alone’

Beck Live @ Islington Academy, London
At this point an exasperated member of the audience starts to shout “Play an old song”, and something about having paid to come here, and not expecting to be treated as lab rats for his new material. The crowd murmured its disaproval, perhaps annoyed that someone had read their mind. Beck put up with his ranting for a while before curtly instructing him to “Shut Up”, adding “Shut the fuck up” incase he hadnt quite got the message. He then launched into another new track ‘Broken’, leaving the heckler to despairingly ask “Is this old!!??”

  • ’Broken’

Then at last ‘Where It’s At’ is wheeled out, sounding as fresh and vital as it did in 1996, and dedicated tonight to Mr “Play something Old”

  • ’Where It’s At’

‘ Im baking a cake , im calling your grandma ‘ – Hell Yes is another great track from the superb Guero but live with a wilting, jet-lagged Hansen and a venue expertly designed to eradicate every drop of atmosphere from a gig, their languorous charms shrivel up a bit. Some have suggested that the new stuff is “little too mature, a little two worthy, a little too world… The frenzy and the fun substituted for funk that borders on muso. Think latter day David Byrne with a stick up his ass.”
Personally I think maybe its not quite as strong as his old stuff or perhaps it’ll just take time before we declare them classics.

>Beck Live @ Islington Academy, London

  • ‘Hell Yes’
  • ’Rental Car’
  • ’Emergency Exit’

If some of the new material doesnt set the place alight, then new single E-Pro is a definate exception…its the most ridiculously catchy song he’s ever written. The audience pogo, the dancing DLT whirls like a dervish, and everone sings along as if they’ve known it all their lives. I just wish he could have played the amazing Gameboy themed remix.

  • ’E-Pro’

Ending the set with a psyched up funked out version of ‘Get Real Paid’ which I have to admit I didnt recognise (I’m not a Beck afficianardo).

  • ’Get Real Paid’

While it was a privelidge to see Beck in such a small venue, it did seem a little lack lustre in places to me and to the audience as a whole judging from the reaction. Maybe it was the jet lag, maybe the shopping centre venue…but i’d love to see him when he’s had a good nights sleep.