Pulling out of SXSW’s iTunes Festival a couple weeks ago – getting out from under Coldplay, Soundgarden, and even Willie Nelson – was Beck. Not reinforcing those slacker tendencies is Austin City Limits, which announced his April 27 taping for a 40th season that already includes Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Eric Church, and Thao & the Get Down Stay Down.
Mr. Hansen was also scheduled to appear during SXSW’s Lou Reed tribute at the Paramount Theatre. Shame he decided not to follow the masses to Austin, because he’s always been a gracious tributary. When Beck played Westlake High School in 2002, his set was littered with covers: Iggy Pop’s “No Fun,” Big Star’s “Kangaroo,” the Zombies’ “Beachwood Park.”
Before that, dipping back to the L.A. slacker’s headlining set at the Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2008, he took on Bob Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin-Pill-Box Hat,” honoring the man who’d closed down the Zilker fête the year before.
Despite the stilling reserve of last month’s four-star Morning Phase, Beck celebrates his 12th album with a summer festival marathon. So far 20 tour dates have been announced, and while theater spots dot the itinerary, the veteran singer is obviously looking to fill fields and parks – Coachella, NYC’s SummerStage, Pitchfork – rather than halls. The ACL taping provides an intimate glimpse at this rare bird, happening just after his headlining slot at Frisco’s Edgefest on April 26.
Assuming his sets will pull heavily from Morning Phase, the Moody Theater’s acoustic prowess seems a better fit than an endless, grassy expanse. Beck has obviously swung through Austin at various points of his career, including his first (and only) SXSW performance in the front room at Emo’s in 1994. Now, some lucky locals will get to see him harken back to the not-so-dark horse in his catalog, 2002’s Morning Phase precursor Sea Change.
While he shut down his ACL Fest performance at Zilker with standards “Loser” and “Where It’s At,” new stunners like “Waking Light” and “Morning” beg for safety from sound bleeds, plus a glass of wine, and, if you’re lucky, a hand to hold. Austin City Limits’ careful tapings at the Moody provide just that.
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