On a night that kicked off with new noise kids (Trumans Water) and old blues guys (Minneapolis legends Ray and Glover), Beck hit the stage as a difference-splitting scholar (not slacker) and ripped through a fresh, freewheeling mélange of Delta blues, L.A. punk funk, old school hip-hop and Dylanesque folk played like a primordial crash course in American roots music. Throughout the 90-minute show, Beck seemed intent not only on shaking his erratic live reputation but on delivering a message: There’s more to music than alternative rock, there’s more to history than yesterday, and there’s more to Beck than “Loser.”
Backed by a burly three-piece band, Beck, with his shock of blond bangs, DIO T-shirt and Rush sticker on his guitar, looked not unlike the coltish kid brother of Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth or Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. Beck spent much of the show bouncing around the stage, singing the anti-hits off his debut album, Mellow Gold, and displaying the poise of a veteran when performing only on acoustic guitar and harmonica and when he was joined by Ray and Glover for a miniset of blues standards.
As Ray and Glover left the stage, the unmistakable slide guitar of “Loser” wafted out over the club and turned the mosh pit into a throbbing wave. Responding to the energy, Beck ricocheted around the stage, pumped his fist in the air and laughed jubilantly. For above all else, Beck is in search of the perfect groove. During the encore of “Beercan,” he found it and surfed it passionately, jumping in the air with such genuine abandon that he lost his balance and fell flat on his ass.
As all great surfers do, Beck got up laughing, caught the wave in midcurl and rode it like a man having the time of his life.
This story is from the August 11th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.