Alright, I have to admit, Place Bell is starting to grow on me. Schlepping all the way up to Laval on Tuesday July 10th to see Beck with opening act Oh Wonder, I began to accept that despite its less than ideal location, there are a lot of things to like. The venue pumps out great sound, they seem to have gotten much better at managing the crowds upon entrance, and there are tons of concession stands. While the traditionalist in me is a little sour that the shows not officially in Montreal, I will now shut my mouth and accept that the Place Bell can indeed host some killer rock shows.
The lighthearted, indie R&B duo Oh Wonder charmed the crowd with the dynamic vocal duo of Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West; a lesson in vocal harmony, they compelled the crowd into a state of blissful rapture. The set was a perfect balance of songs from the bands two albums, Oh Wonder their debut from 2015 and 2017’s Ultralife. Switching between keyboards and guitar, the duo truly blurred the lines between danceable R&B and soft indie rock. “Body Gold” was a slow grooving, almost lounge pop jam with bright flourishes of keyboards and hi-hat drum patterns that invited you to dance albeit casually. The flip-side, “Ultralife” was a much more explosive, high energy pop number that said, “dance with abandon!” Oh Wonder’s sound feels tailormade for summer outdoor festivals, and as I begin to mentally prepare for Osheaga in a couple of weeks, they provided me with a first-class warm up.
It is my personal opinion that Beck is the coolest guy in rock music today. He has been for a while. You can argue that point, but if you were at the show Tuesday, I don’t see how your points would have any validity. Opening with a classic “Devil’s Haircut,” the band playing it slightly different than the album version, if you’ve been to a Beck show you know this happens all the time, it was apparent we were in for a special night. Beck unleashed a barrage of tambourine strikes into his hip, as he glided across the stage clad in a dazzling purple blazer. He seemed in a mischievous and playful mood as he seamlessly charmed and played with the crowd during mid song banter, introducing “Mixed Bizness” as if he were a preacher.
Constructing a setlist out of a career spanning 25 years and twelve albums is a daunting task. Somehow Beck managed to put together a set that hit on all albums and had incredible flow to it, something made even more impressive because of how many different styles and genres he has incorporated into his albums over the years. Beck would even go on to joke about during the night, “this set list is a flawed amalgam of the last 25 years.” Here are a couple of those “flaws:” an acoustic rendition of the sexy/funky “Debra,” sleeper pick for one of my personal favourite Beck songs. A rendition of “Raspberry Beret,” which along with the purple blazer, served as a nice tribute to Prince. The melancholic, acoustic classic “Lost Cause,” for which all eight members of the band cuddled up between three mics and absolutely crushed. A rousing, high energy performance of “Girl” that had everyone in the building out of their seats. Yes! All that and Beck even managed to slip in a few deep cuts like “Strange Apparition” and “Earthquake Weather.” And of course “Loser.” It was all there!
Beck even managed to keep the encore fresh, stopping midway through “Where It’s At” to introduce the band by having them each play a little snippet from a classic song that showcased their instrument. This was my fifth or sixth time seeing Beck live and he continues to exceed my expectations every time. He can do no wrong in my books and will continue to wear the heavy weight belt for “coolest guy in rock.” He’s the champ, there are no real contenders.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy