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Weekend Reviews : Music Review

Beck Deals All the Cards in Eclectic Show

May 08, 2000|RICHARD CROMELIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Beck's world turns, things get simultaneously more curious and weirdly inspiring.

A few years ago, when he had the rock-leaning "Odelay" album out, he started turning his show into an R&B revue. Now his latest album is the R&B-heavy "Midnite Vultures," and when he opened the Greek Theatre's season on Friday he ignited a full-scale disco inferno.

But just when you thought he had settled into the groove thing, he began dealing from the bottom of the deck, behind his back--you name it.

Suddenly it was punk-rock and the Brazilian-flavored "Tropicalia," the solo troubadour singing the dolorous "Cold Brains," the pre-fame performance art provocateur in safety-worker vest and oxygen mask conducting a chaotic, enigmatic finale.

That Beck could be so commanding and credible in all these roles probably shouldn't be a surprise, considering the scope of his "Odelay"-era shows, but it was good to see him keeping it so vital at a time when he's no longer pop music's anointed man of the moment.

"Midnite Vultures" has been a commercial disappointment, but Beck's focus seems to be on something higher. When he brought the show's opening act, Mexico's Cafe Tacuba, on stage to back him on his "Jackass"--retitled "Burro" and sung in Spanish in honor of Cinco de Mayo and his guests--the feeling at the Greek was so warm and embracing that Beck seemed like nothing less than a healer.

Bringing Tacuba on tour is a typical move for the genre-mixing singer, and the Mexico City quartet--one of the most acclaimed of the rock en espan~ol groups--appeared to win over much of the crowd with its restless mix of disco, art-rock, hip-hop, traditional Mexican music and hard rock. Singer Ruben Albarran's energy and eagerness were hard to resist.

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