Beck plays first Hollywood show since 2018 at The Ford

Beck Ford Theater Farah Sosa

Beck‘s Wednesday night show at The Ford was his first show in Hollywood since 2018. The performance really would never have come to fruition if not for sitting in the audience at the top of the month for the legendary Patti Smith. Beck decided he wanted to play the beautiful outdoor theater/castle-under-the-stars too so he indulged his fans in an intimate hundred-minute set – which actually felt like two separate shows. Beck did a wonderful acoustic series of tunes and later the band joined him for a rockin’, rapping, groovy and even gospel collection of hits proving the songwriter/producer/performer can do just about anything musically – plus he’s a skilled guitarist, he dances, raps, tells silly jokes (about Glendale) and stories and plays a mean harmonica. He even ended the evening hiking up into the Hollywood Hills behind the stage with the spotlight on him while the show was going on. He did return for the end of his finale, however.

Beck entered the stage solo in a fashionable white suit and said simply, “Good Evening”, tested out his harmonica and mentioned it was his first show in two years with his band, describing the feeling “you know, when Sasquatch walks out of his cage”. “Let’s see if I remember how to do this”, said Beck. He jumped in with a mixture of emotional, introspective and even melancholy songs first with the acoustic guitar-led “Guess I’m Doing Fine”, balancing the sweet and bluesy moments on both guitar and harmonica, brightening the crowd’s mood with the harmonica. It was the lyric “missing all this time” that really gave the opening song a punch of reality.

“I decided to do this thing acoustic a couple weeks ago because I saw Patti Smith here”, said Beck. “I’ll do some acoustic and we’ll get noisy later. I’m kind of opening for myself”, said Beck, followed by laughter.

The beautiful chords on “Everybody’s Gotta Learn” from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind held the mood and attention of the crowd with Beck strumming peacefully on guitar, like a busker. “I Am The Cosmos” hit the heartstrings again with the harmonica and lovely plucking on the guitar.

The acoustic set continued with indie rock/protest song “Nitemare Hippie Girl”, with Beck mentioning the song could go on forever and that the lyrics should even be updated suggesting the line “she’s got a membership to Erewhon”, among others. An incredible cover of Chris Bell’s hearbreaker “I Am The Cosmos” was next, with alluring guitar and some standout moments on harmonica making it one of the best of the night. And another highlight of the acoustic set was “Nobody’s Fault but My Own”, with Beck capturing the melody beautifully strummed with the feel of an intimate bonfire. The feels continued with the devastating “Lost Cause”, with absolutely timeless guitar and vocals.

Photographs taken by Farah Sosa at The Ford, provided courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association

A transition took place with Beck playing “Asshole” and finally the band was lit up and joined him ending the song with its signature “oohs”. “Golden Age” was a bright way to kick things off with the full band with the stage backlit on the local flora. “Waking Light” picked up the energy despite it being a moody song, coupled with a big guitar break and a loud applause to follow. The tempo was finally up (and so was the crowd) with “Devil’s Haircut” blazing through The Ford with the flashing lighting matching the groovy 60s-inspired hit. 

Early 2000s song “Que’ Onda Guero” was up next, showing off Beck’s rap-singing skills and a nod to his Spanish-speaking friends and the melting pot that is Southern California. Beck mentioned on the next song “We don’t usually play this song but I know we have some Hollywood freaks here” with the crowd singing along to the “sha-na-na-nas”. “Saw Lightning” which was co-produced by Beck and Pharrell proves Beck loves his beats and experimentation, a gospel groover that is both dancey and mysterious. The bassline was kicking for the funky, mid-tempo “Go It Alone” full of attitude and mischief with Beck getting the crowd clapping along in unison. It was a strong full band instrumental with top guitar moments while the fans got funky snapping their fingers by the end.

Beck worked the stage as usual dancing on “The New Pollution”, making use of his stage everywhere he went and eventually whipping his jacket off. “Giddy-up, giddy up” and Beck was singing and rapping along to “Wow” tapping into his love for hip-hop beats and rap eventually swinging the microphone over his head. A burst of high energy continued the party with “Dreams”, a full band highlight with equal elements of infectious electronic and rock. Beck’s falsetto was in full effect on ballad “Debra” getting the crowd in the serenading mood by having the men sing “Lovely lady, girl you drive me crazy” while he had the women sing “Ooh, love you baby, boy you drive me crazy”. Breakthrough 1994 hit “Loser” closed out the set with blasting guitars and drums and everyone singing along of course.

For the encore, “E-Pro” got the place in unison on the “na-na-nas” and the energy remained high for the hip-hop/60s hybrid “Where It’s At” with lots more crowd participation and then Beck told the crowd “Everybody calm down and get a hold of yourselves, it’s getting a little hectic” and he introduced his talented band.

Beck did a chord on his harmonica, explored the stage and complimented the venue for at least a second time going into the hidden nooks and mentioning “this is where the Wizard of Oz is” and he was convinced it somehow hooked into Runyon Canyon. A couple freestyles on the harmonica atop the hill abutting The Ford, Beck was in full hoedown mode on the harmonica with the band joining in to “One Foot In The Grave”. “Off-road hiking in the Hollywood Hills in Gucci shoes is not a good idea”, said Beck before the band picked up where they left off with an encore of “Where It’s At”. Beck was sliding on stage with his bass player from side to side, he jammed with his crew, hit the tambourine for a couple bars and tossed it. Good times were had on this welcome hometown return of Beck.