LIVE: Beck’s “Song Reader” At Walt Disney Concert Hall (11/24/13)
By Elise Hennigan; photos by Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging on November 25, 2013
Beck + Friends
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles, California
November 24, 2013
You probably remember Beck’s Song Reader, a book of sheet music (and art) that Beck released with McSweeney’s at the end of 2012. Rather than record and release the songs as an album, Hansen left it up to his fans and fellow musicians to pick up the sheet music and craft their own renditions of his creations.
(You’d be forgiven if you don’t remember—while people agreed that the idea was interesting, that was sort of the end of it unless you played these songs yourself or sought out recordings.)
Last night, Beck—and a number of notable guests: Jack Black, Childish Gambino, Jarvis Cocker, Jon Brion, Jenny Lewis, John C. Reilly and Moses Sumney to name a few—brought the project to life at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown, Los Angeles. Beck’s musical guests performed 12 songs from the reader (Beck, himself performed on three, including one solo effort) and local notables Tig Notaro, Jonathan Gold, Josh Kun and others provided historical context and comic relief with spoken word and comedy bits between the songs.
The grand venue and the accompaniment of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra gave the evening a larger-than-life feel that was tempered by how personal and of-the-moment the performances felt. Beck’s father, David Campbell who conducted the 61-piece LA Phil, exuded warmth and ended up hugging most of the musicians after they played on stage. Jack Black set the evening’s whimsical tone by dropping his pants in his opening remarks to the audience. The audience was loose and comfortable, whistling during breaks in songs and chatting during the intermission.
LA-based singer/songwriter Moses Sumney and his silky smooth, textured rendition of “Title of This Song,” was a stand out. Pulp's Jarvis Cocker writhed across the stage and delighted the crowd with his performance of “Why Did You Make Me Care?” Childish Gambino knocked out “Please Leave a Light on When You Go” in falsetto; and Anne Hathaway, an unannounced special guest, harmonized beautifully with the lovely Jenny Lewis on “Last Night You Were a Dream.”
Beck remained in the wings for most of the performance as the musicians played his creations, only coming out on stage halfway through the show (to thunderous applause) and at the finale to play the ambling, “Do We? We Do!” with the entire ensemble.
“I can't tell you what it feels like to hear all these people playing these songs I wrote. It’s very surreal," Beck told the crowd. And then, putting an arm around his dad, “I don’t think he slept for a month.” Considering that Beck’s sheet-music-only album was eight years in the making, odds are that Beck felt pretty relieved with the success of the evening—and one of his most ambitious musical projects—too. F