On evenings like this it’s easy to be an outdoors music lover. Warm weather, mud free and firm footings, civilized and discerning punters, queue free bars and loos, plus two stellar names of the rock music hierarchy on the bill to entertain us in Kilmainham’s colonial splendour. That brewer of Danish dishwater doesn’t do music festivals but if they did……
First up tonight is that wunderkind of indie guitar heroes, Jonny Greenwood. Outside of his regular 9 to 5 with Radiohead, Jonny has been moonlighting as a writer of movie soundtracks as well as Composer in Residence for the BBC Concert Orchestra. And, it’s this hat Greenwood’s wearing tonight as he, along with the assistance of the London Contemporary Orchestra, delivers a set comprising of the work of other composers as well as his own. Jonny, his ever-luscious silken locks veiling his face, opens with his sitar; exotically droning, resonating and resting lightly on the summer breeze as he opens up proceedings with his self composed ‘Miniture’. Reich’s ‘Electric Counterpoint’ sees him rocking the guitar in a neo-classical minimalist style and this is as close as we’re going to get to seeing any rock shenanigans out of the man tonight. Some folks may be disappointed with this but the gig does what it says on the tin – it’s contemporary classicism, baby – get over it.
Performances like this are usually constrained to the dusty environs of establishments like the NCH so it’s an interesting and brave move to host this outdoors and in a traditional rock setting. It’s an experiment that mostly pays off. Some of the subtleties of the pieces are invariably lost in these unfamiliar surroundings, their fleeting and haunting beauty too fragile to survive the void between stage and audience. However, the sensory juxtaposition of listening to dissonant neo-classical music whilst also enjoying the waft of fried onions drifting over from the burger vans is strangely satisfying.
Kilmainham is basking in the evening sun as Beck takes to the stage with ‘Devils Haircut’. Fresh-in from Tuesday’s show in Cork and testifying to the restorative powers of Dun Laoghaire’s Teddy’s Ice Cream, he slithers and sallies his way across the stage, busting snake-hipped moves as he effortlessly powers thorough a career-spanning and audience-pleasing set. Slicker than an oil spillage, he flits from ‘Think I’m in Love’ to Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ then straight into ‘The New Pollution’ without missing a beat.
Suitably, the sun is offering us its last when Beck hits us with ‘Blue Moon’. Dublin’s Summer sunset providing the perfect backdrop for this warm, dusty sounding modern day classic from last year’s Morning Phase. ‘Heart Is a Drum’ from the same album, also gets an airing. In a career of many highs, Beck’s current work more than holds its own with its older siblings tonight.
We hit a bit of a lull with a flat rendition of ‘Lost Cause’ from Sea Changes but we’re only in the doldrums for a few moments as Beck works through the gears again to bring us back up to speed. After a deliriously raucous ‘Loser’ and the seemingly endless riff of ‘E-Pro’, Beck brings the first act to a close and cordons off the front of the stage with some, no doubt dubiously acquired, Garda Crime Scene tape.
He then goes into full chameleon overdrive in the encore, covering 80’s classics as he introduces the members of the band, then not quite ready for the night’s closing track, he grabs his blues harp and launches into ‘One Foot In The Grave’. His inner dust-bowl farmer sated, Beck closes with ‘Where It’s At’ and this is indeed where IT was AT tonight. Bang on the curfew button of 22:30 and Mr. Hansen has left the building.
Beck has delivered a career spanning set with a genre jumping smorgasbord of styles. Every thing from lo-fi, to country, to hip-hop, to rootsy blues and pop is covered. What underpins and gives this seemingly mish-mash of sounds cohesion is his wit and intelligent song writing and, as I said at the beginning, if that Danish brewer did do festivals they’d be pretty near perfect but they’d also be serving Becks.
Beck photographed for State by Leah Carroll.