How did Beck, slacker hero, become arguably the greatest rock star Generation X has yet produced? His 90-minute concert on Friday at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium certainly begged the question. Armed with the most fetching material from his current album, "Odelay," the 26-year-old genre-masher confidently charmed the capacity crowd of mainly preteen to thirtysomething fans.
On record, Beck alchemizes garage-rock, art-rock, funk, blues, country, hip-hop, folk, noise, samples and odd verbal bits. The quirky hook and mellow groove of his 1994 hit single "Loser" proved this eccentric style had commercial possibilities, but his early work wasn't always so captivating, and his live performances were equally erratic.
But nothing was tentative about Friday's show, partly because "Odelay" represents the best integration to date of Beck's myriad influences. "Odelay" is dense and complex, yet more coherent and poppier than previous efforts. In concert, it sounded even better. Beck and his quartet spun a spry, seamless, even psychedelic blend of samples, live drums, soul-tinged keyboards and offbeat lyrics with blues, rock and country guitar riffs.
Framed by a banner-sized backdrop image of LAX's famous space-age restaurant tower and vintage flashing light boxes, the players were eclectically stylish in their assorted ascots and afros. A rainbow of swirling disco-ball lights periodically speckled the performers and the audience. Wearing a dark three-piece suit, tie and cobalt blue shirt, playing guitar and harmonica, Beck made an unlikely--but convincing--soul shouter, alternately crooning and shrieking with expert control.