Beck live in London: Pop maestro gets intimate at Camden's Electric Ballroom

Beck to the future: the pop maestro takes Camden by storm: Dawbell
Beck to the future: the pop maestro takes Camden by storm: Dawbell

“We just wanted to get together with some friends tonight.”

Beck must really love playing in London. He and his band only flew over to do Later… earlier this week, but ended up staying and booking a couple of impromptu gigs in the capital.

This intimate show at the Electric Ballroom was something of an unofficial album launch party too; new record Colors was set for release the next morning and 1500 of Camden’s music lovers had packed into the Ballroom to share in the moment.

Beck, suited and booted and with trademark black fedora, made a gentle start to the set with a succession of songs from 2014 Grammy-winning record Morning Phase. Note-perfect renditions of the introverted Say Goodbye and somnolent Blue Moon show just how beautifully written these subtle tracks are, but he doesn’t keep things subdued for long.

The wicked opening riff of Devil’s Haircut instantly shakes the audience out of their ballad-induced stupor. Suddenly the ballroom is bouncing, and Beck and the band race through the gears.

The band are clearly in the mood for celebrating; amongst the precise performances of songs from across the Beck canon, the super-tight band launch into seemingly spontaneous renditions of The Clash’s London Calling, Talking Heads’ Once In a Lifetime and a heartfelt version of American Girl in tribute to the late Tom Petty.

As Beck dips into his back catalogue, there’s huge variation in genre and style. From roots-y blues slacker on Loser to quirky hip-hop anti-hero on Where It’s At and beyond, the pint-sized pop maestro seamlessly flicks between personas and musical guises.

It’s the new material that forms the most illuminating moments of the night, though. Beck storms through new songs Dreams, Wow, and the pulsating Colors in quick succession, and the triumphant Up All Night might be the most dance floor-friendly song he’s ever written. The new tracks represent some of Beck’s most bombastic and pop-centric works to date, and show a clear digression from the mellifluous balladry of Morning Phase. By the time he and his band leave the stage to a rapturous reception, the introvert singer-songwriter we saw on his last record has been well and truly replaced by the pop behemoth of Colors.

Beck’s latest transformation is complete. Who knows who he’ll be next.