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Five Thoughts: Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler at Park Theater (July 19)

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Beck at Park Theater, July 19, 2019.
Photo: Al Powers / Park MGM/Courtesy

1. In 2017, Starcrawler lead singer Arrow de Wilde told Nylon magazine that bands can’t just make good music; they have to look cool. “You have to make people feel like they could never be that, or they wish they could be that, otherwise it just looks like the dude at the café down the street playing guitar,” she said. As the opening act of the Night Running Tour, de Wilde looked cool and then some. Playing her band’s retro garage-metal glam to the smallest crowd of the night, de Wilde was the height of unattainable cool. She squatted, writhed and rolled on the floor and at one point seemed to simulate a sexual act with her microphone. True to the band’s name, she crawled off the stage at the end of the 20-minute set, leaving the audience revved up for more.

2. Venerable Texas indie rockers Spoon played a fantastic batch of their most-loved songs, including “Rent I Pay,” “The Way We Get By,” “The Underdog,” “Don’t You Evah” and “I Turn My Camera On.” It was the perfect set to pave the way for the July 26 release of the band's new collection, Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon. New single “No Bullets Spent” was everything fans could want from a Spoon song: sexy staccato negativity.

3. Cage the Elephant frontman Matt Shultz stole the show. If there could be an MVP award given for a four-band concert that felt like a mini music fest, he’d have earned it. Shultz began his set dressed as a frumpish woman in a long skirt and a hat; he eventually stripped down to flesh-colored skivvies and knee pads; and finally, he removed the knee pads. What happened in between was an inter-dimensional whirling dervish of energy featuring hellish pyrotechnics, bizarre costume changes and musical ecstasy. Other times he toyed with the audience, covering his face coquettishly with a fan. And yes, those knee pads came into use as Shultz danced, rolled on the floor and did a sort of side headstand.

4. In the break between sets, the big question was whether Beck—much less any human—could follow that act. It didn’t seem possible. But then the first strains of the 1994 hit “Loser” played, launching a clean, tight, hit-filled set. If Cage the Elephant was all about channeling the spirit of chaos, Beck was a polished professional with a slick laser light show and snazzy dance moves. Songs included “Mixed Bizness,” “The New Pollution,” “Where It’s At” and even a little channeling of Kanye West.

5. The evening of music lasted five hours. By the end of it, I was physically tired but still wanted the night to go on and on. I especially wanted a few more songs from Beck. Random fans in the parking lot grumbled that he cut his set short because he was annoyed with sound issues. Not sure how the parking lot randoms got insight into Beck’s inner dialogue, but it seemed legit. On a side note, this was my first time trying out MGM’s paper straw policy. I enjoyed feeling like my gin cocktail was saving the planet. But at the same time, I wondered if it’s possible to invent a straw that lasts a little longer than half a drink and a little shorter than 1,000 years.

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