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24 Jul 2019

Live: The Night Running Tour With Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler, FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine, July 17

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Beck. Beck. Guillermo Prieto/Irockphotos.net

Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon and Starcrawler made a Night Running Tour stop at the FivePoint Amphitheatre in Irvine on Wednesday, July 17.

While the tour did not make a Coachella Valley stop, all of the performers are familiar with the area, having made appearances at Coachella, Desert Daze or Pappy and Harriet’s.

Spoon was its usual great self, flawlessly executing the band’s hits, with Britt Daniel jokingly praising Arrow de Wilde, lead singer of Starcrawler, for “finally calming down.” (However, her performance was anything but calm: Arrow de Wilde is a female version of Iggy Pop, someone who never stands still and runs around like she just escaped from an insane asylum—in a wonderful rock ’n’ roll sort of way. Unfortunately, I missed most of her performance.)

Spoon’s “The Way We Get By” is always a smash with audiences—and is even more popular after presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg shared on social media his piano version of the song. In early April 2019, Spoon shared the video on its social media with the caption: “So this guy can just do everyone’s job, huh.” That garnered a response from Buttigieg: “Hey it’s just the way I get by.”

Spoon is always fun, and “Knock Knock Knock” got the fans stirred up. “The Underdog” was also a hit with the audience, perhaps due to its placement in 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, which exposed many to Spoon for the first time. Fans also got to hear a new song, “No Bullets Spent,” on new compilation release Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon. The song is a reflection of our time, as Daniel sings, “Don’t know what you got ’til you’re 22. Got a mortgage hung around your neck. What we need now is an accident. No one to blame and no bullets spent.”

Cage the Elephant’s performance started with lead guitarist Brad Shultz playing offstage as his brother, lead vocalist Matt Shultz, walked onstage in a hyper-controlled motion, subverting in a way the pedestrian task of walking on to a stage—but everything Cage the Elephant does is destabilizing yet contagious.

This was my first time seeing Cage the Elephant, and I became entranced by how Matt Shultz moved about and sang at the same time. As Matt shed layers of his outer skin, it became apparent he was here to rock your heart out, and the nearly 80-minute set ran at a frantic pace. The only pauses were when Matt or Brad went into the audience to interact with the cell-phone-obsessed crowd. Cage the Elephant played the hits, starting with “Cry Baby” and then following up with flames burning from the back of the stage for “Broken Boy.” The performance also included the cynical and sad joy that is “Ready to Let Go”: “We met up; we broke bread. I was blue; your dress was red; ain’t it strange? We both knew this day was coming.”

At one point, Matt walked into the crowd with what appeared to be a battery-powered LED light with a chicken leg or a banana tied to it (it was too dark to tell); he took the occasional bite. Of course, Cage the Elephant played mega hit “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” He acknowledged the women in the audience by saying, “It’s not the journey; it’s the destination. Thank you, ladies.” A young woman next to me jumped up and yelled: “I want to make out with you!”

Sometimes lyrics connect and allow people to feel and pause and reflect, like the beginning verse of  “Teeth”: “Electrified harmonious, I think I’ll take it out to the streets. Will someone please help me? Call the doctor, but don’t call the police.” It was the best performance I have seen all year by a recording artist that got its start in the 21st century—but the headliner had yet to perform.

Beck walked onstage to cheers. “What’s going on this beautiful evening?” he asked as he led with his classic “Loser,” following up with fan favorite “The New Pollution.”

Beck asked the audience, “Any güeros out there?” (“Beck, it’s Irvine!” I mentally responded, with a chuckle.) Beck added: “This is a story about growing up in Boyle heights. This is about some of the people were I grew up,” introducing “¿Qué onda Güero?”

A potential jam-band session was in the mist, but Beck pivoted when the lyrics were not coming out of his mouth correctly. “I think someone is smoking something up here—makes you forget lyrics. Lyrics fighting for a lost cause,” he said as the attempted improvisation fizzled.

Ending with “E-Pro,” Beck said, “Órale,” and walked off the stage. He soon returned and stated, “Let me take you down,” with his encore of “Where It’s At.”

After sitting down and pointing out friends in the audience, Beck quipped: “We are on a night ride. Who do we have here?” Then Matt Shultz walked onstage wearing a red silk-like outfit with a matching red fan. Beck and Matt performed their collaborative dub-step reggae song, “Night Running”—which, of course, shares the name with this tour.

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