Beck on preparing his extensive back catalogue for a live performance

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Beck on preparing his extensive back catalogue for a live performance


Beck Hansen passes as an everyman. It’s easy to forget that you’re speaking to the person behind such ‘90s classics as ‘Devil’s Haircut’, ‘Where It’s At’, and ‘Loser’ when his calming voice comes through on the other line. He’s an ordinary man who’s been able to achieve extraordinary things in his 30-years-plus career.

Hansen is also somewhat of an evergreen touring act, with his ensemble frequenting stages across the globe for years on end during album cycles. “Even when I haven’t had a record out, we’ve been touring – I think it’s been seven years straight now,” he says. “It’s all about continuation and evolution, and we love to get out there and have lots of fun with it. It’s been especially good to add in all the new songs to the set, as well. They give a bit of new blood.”

The new songs come from Colors, Beck’s 13th studio album, which was released last October. Hansen plans to perform songs from it and a large portion of his career on his imminent Australian tour. “We also have a bigger group touring with us at the moment, and we have a new rhythm section on this run,” he says. “I’m very excited for people who haven’t seen me and the band play for a while in this new incarnation. Hopefully, the new things that are a part of the show will work as kindling for the fire.”

When it comes to a Beck show, it’s hard to know what you’ll be in for. He might do something gutsy like open with ‘Loser’. He might do an entire acoustic detour. He might do a whole section of funk tracks like ‘Debra’ and ‘Sexx Laws’. Much like Hansen’s career, you’re guaranteed a mixed bag. “The records are so diverse, which means the audiences are really diverse too,” he says. “There’s some people that probably only have an interest in one or two kinds of records of mine. Others will want to hear a bit of everything, and that’s cool too. Some people want the hits, others are clambering for more obscure songs. When we’re putting together a show for the tour, it’s this elusive Venn diagram.”

So, how exactly does one narrow down from hundreds of songs across 13 albums over 25 years? As Dennis Denuto would put it, it’s the vibe. “Ultimately, the show has to carry a certain energy,” Hansen reasons. “That’s what it comes down to. There are songs I connect with deeply that I don’t play that often, only because it won’t work in the context of a Saturday night festival out in the open air. Other songs will work if it’s your show, and you have moments that are intended to be sad and melancholy in the ebb and flow of things. I tend to look for the songs that will bring people together. There needs to be dynamics – the peaks and valleys that will give people the full experience.”

While in Australia, Beck will perform some select headlining dates with Melbourne singer-songwriter Meg Mac. He’s also one of the headlining acts at the Sydney City Limits festival, taking place at the end of the month in Sydney’s Centennial Park. “Show days are usually really busy for us, but I always try and make a point of seeing friends and some acts I’m intrigued by,” says Hansen. The inaugural festival has scored one of the biggest lineups of 2018 thus far, and even Hansen himself is impressed with the names that he’ll be sharing the stage with. “I’m really curious about seeing Future,” he says. “I’d like to see Young Thug, too.

“The Avalanches, I’ve never seen – their records are incredible. Phoenix are old friends of mine now – I must have known them for the better part of 20 years, I’d say. We were doing shows with them as early as their first or second record. There was a period of time where they’d play with us every time we came to Paris. I have to recommend Thundercat, too. I toured with him last year, and he’s in the ‘Dreams’ video that we made. His work is something I’m really supportive of.”