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Review: Beck at The Social

July 8, 2015 | by Faber Social

Tags: Andrew Weatherall, Beck, Events, The Social

On Tuesday the 30th of June, after some frantic organisation, Beck played a secret show at Faber Social in front of 100 people. Our roving reporter Robin Turner has filed the following report.

Monday night. Sprawled on the sofa gunning beers trying to cool off. Phone goes. It’s Lee. I make an assumption. He’s fucking pocket called me. Go back to watching the telly. He calls again. Persistent bugger. He leaves a message. “I might have got Beck to play the Social tomorrow night. Call me back.” Bullshit. What the fuck. He’s finally lost his fucking marbles. He’s also now not answering his phone.

Tuesday morning. “What was all that about?”
“He’s up for it. It’s happening tonight.”
“Fuck off.”

Beck playing at the Social was always going to be a remarkable show. Since first pouring pints sixteen years ago, the venue has hosted some pretty special gigs, often by bands on the way up (pretty much everyone from Bon Iver to Florence and the Machine), sometimes by visiting legends looking for something different to do (a restless Jack White, a thoughtful Horace Andy, Daniel Beddingfield turning up at Hip Hop Karaoke, that sort of thing). Those gigs are what gets remembered; the notches in the Social’s bedpost.

The idea of Beck Hansen playing in the downstairs bar? Unobtainable. Wouldn’t have a clue where to even start asking. And if it did happen? Actual destruction of the bed. Bed burnt to cinders. Gone. Dust.

During five years they’ve run nights in the Social, it’s fair to say that Faber have thrown us some curveballs. Our relationship seems predicated on the fact that there’s another curveball being aimed – thrown faster, wider, harder than the last. The Faber Social is driven by the kind of “If you don’t ask…” attitude that’s ready to place Jarvis Cocker and Edna O’Brien on the same bill or willing to stage a live ‘classic albums’ discussion between Gruff Rhys and Richard King. It’s an attitude that demands you show (several times) a film about a bloke in Hartlepool who’s covered his entire house in empty beer cans. It might not sound plausible in advance but it always makes total sense on the night.

Now I think about it, I should probably have taken Monday night’s phone call a bit more seriously than I did. Demented as some of his ideas might seem, Lee Brackstone has yet to promise anything that hasn’t come to fruition. While the thought of Beck playing in the Social was ludicrously farfetched on Monday night, at 11pm on Tuesday as he squeezed through a corridor of bodies to get to the stage – a Red Sea of faces all paused in disbelief, slackened jaws, zero comprehension of what was happening – the idea seemed entirely reasonable.

Oh there he is, of course he is, bit shorter than I expected, good hat, right he’s picked up that guitar, of course he has, he’s bantering with the audience yes now he’s playing the Golden Age. Perfectly plausible. Nothing weird here.

Fact is, everything was weird. It was the hottest evening of the year; 26 degrees after dark. And bang in the middle of that dreamlike lull that London – and particularly the music industry – goes through post-Glastonbury. In the aftershocks of that all-conquering festival, music is a constant; seeping through the air like wifi signals, like pollen. It’s intensely everywhere at once, dominating conversation, shifting the mind set countrywide, helping days melt into one another and making life feel like one long meeting in the pub. That state of mind can kill a gig, take away its uniqueness and add it to a production line of melodies and words.

That was never going to be the case here though. Having Faber’s first artist in residence Andrew Weatherall start the night with a bag of scratchy rock’n’roll 7s was a masterstroke. Weatherall is arguably Britain’s greatest record selector and a true believer; the perfect human jukebox in that time-stretched pub meeting. The safest pair of hands to set the tone; a spirits guide through a haze of mid-week alcohol.

It goes without saying that what happened next – bang on 11pm – was perfect (sorry, I feel bad even writing this… if we could do it all again, I’d get you all in – my solemn promise).

Mining Sea Change and Morning Phase, adding a handful of of covers (the Korgi’s Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes as recorded for the soundtrack of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the Stones’ No Expectations and a crowd driven version of Raspberry Beret) and finishing with the surprisingly deathless Loser (funny now to think it felt like a post-grunge novelty hit twenty odd years ago), Beck invited requests, valiantly attempted songs he’d long forgotten (Rowboat, covered by Johnny Cash on Unchained) and read from the Songbook Reader.

His set was gone in an hour, like a click of the fingers. Back out through the same slack jawed crowd without breaking a sweat. Cacophonous applause. Goodnight London.

Regards the Social, once we’ve finished sweeping up the dust, we’d better build a stronger bed. Me? Maybe I need to take Lee’s calls a bit quicker next time.

Robin Turner can be found here, here and here.

Below are photos from the event: