When I interviewed Beck in 2008, we talked about “Loser,” the breakthrough single that topped the alternative songs chart and remains his most successful mainstream moment with its beatbox-driven slide-guitar riff and singalong chorus of “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?”

“I was pretty much certain,” he said, “that I would be sentenced to being that guy for the rest of my life. And the thing that was more than a little disturbing was that I was writing these really personal songs and had this other side.”

It’s been 25 years since “Loser” peaked at No. 10 on Billboard’sHot 100. If you Google Beck, “Loser” and “albatross,” you’ll find countless examples of articles talking about how that single would quickly emerge as a bit of an albatross around the singer’s neck.

And yet, here he was setting the tone for his concert at Ak-Chin Pavilion with “Loser,” embracing the single he worried had painted him into a corner he managed to paint himself out of on such understated treasures as “Mutations,” “Sea Change” and 2015’s “Morning Phase,” which picked up Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. 

It was kind of refreshing, a crowd-pleasing start to a spirited set that kept the focus squarely on the extroverted side of who he is and where he’s at, following “Loser” with “E-Pro” – a version that couldn’t have rocked any more than it did – and a very funky “Up All Night,” the first of three songs from his latest album, “Colors.”

It felt like a festival set in a way, a high-energy romp through such obvious highlights as “Girl,” “The New Pollution,” “Que Onda Guero” and “Dreams” at the helm of a band that featured longtime sidemen Jason Falkner, whose guitar leads were beyond electrifying, and Robert Joseph Manning Jr., both of Jellyfish.

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If you were hoping he’d squeeze in a handful of songs from “Mutations” or “Sea Change,” you may have gone home disappointed. But that’s not the kind of show he came to do. And few artists do the kind of show he came to do as well as Beck.

After bringing the set to an explosive, almost Who-like peak with “Devil’s Haircut,” the singer invited the fans in the back to come down front for an epic medley that made its way from “Where It’s At” through snippets of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime,” Chic’s “Good Times” and more.

Cage the Elephant’s Matt Shultz returned to the stage for “Night Running,” the single they recorded for the tour. And after a second attempt at getting the crowd to sing along to Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” in tribute to the triple-digit temperatures (it worked this time), he got out his harmonica for “One Foot in the Grave” before telling the crowd “Let’s turn this back around” and going back to “Where It’s At” to end the night in a confetti shower. 

Cage the Elephant get intensely physical

Guitarist Brad Shultz set the tone for Cage the Elephant’s performance with a flurry of Townshend-esque strums that soon gave way to “Cry Baby.” By that point, his brother Matt Shultz had made his entrance in a floppy hat and sunglasses, holding a mask, which he later revealed he had made, to his face. 

He’s an intensely physical performer, frequently leaving the stage to take his in-your-face performance style directly into individual faces. But he’s also extremely theatrical. By the time he lost his shirt to wander through the crowd, it felt a bit like a performance artist doing Iggy Pop. 

The stage erupted in a huge pyrotechnic display on “Broken Boy,” their second song. But even a stage full of flames couldn’t hope to compete for attention with Shultz’s blend of manic energy and odd behavior.

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The set went heavy on songs from “Social Cues,” their latest album, while offering a fairly decent overview of how they got there. They even reached back to 2008 for two selections from their first release – “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” and their first of several songs to top the alternative songs chart, “Back Against the Wall.” 

Highlights ranged from a soulful “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and a haunting “Trouble” to the raucous garage-rock vibe of “Cold Cold Cold” and the screaming conclusion of “It’s Just Forever.”

After bringing the set to a head with a dramatic “Shake Me Down,” they pulled back on the energy a bit for a tender, acoustic-guitar-driven “Cigarette Daydreams,” touching off a massive singalong. Then, they signed off with “Teeth,” by which point Shultz, now wearing only bike shorts, was deep in the crowd, where he stayed, signing autographs long after the other members of his band had left the stage. 

Could Spoon even be any better? No

The concert started with a set by LA’s Starcrawler, followed by Spoon, who had 11 songs to make it clear how they’ve become such celebrated figures in the indie world thanks in large part to their reputation as a live act.

But they didn’t really need that many songs to make their case.

Taking the stage in a cowboy hat and shades, Britt Daniel led his bandmates in a set that seemed to hit its stride on an urgent “The Way We Get By,” three songs in, giving way to the forward momentum of “Trouble Comes Running.”

It probably helps that Jim Eno is among the best rock drummers of his generation and that Daniel’s raspy vocals have more character than most.

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But in the end, the key to Spoon’s appeal may come down to the thought they put into arranging their material with an ear toward dynamics – stripping “The Underdog” down to maracas and vocals on the verse, for instance.

Highlights included the synth-fueled atmosphere of “Inside Out,” the throbbing bass groove of “I Turn My Camera On,” the soulful charms of “Do You” and the insistent drumming that powered the set-closing “Rent I Pay.”

Beck setlist



“Up All Night”



“Mixed Bizness”

“New Pollution”

“Que Onda Guero”

“Saw Lightning”


“Devil’s Haircut”

“Where’s It At”

“Miss You” (Rolling Stones instrumental snippet)

“Once in a Lifetime” (Talking Heads snippet)

“Night Running” (Cage the Elephant song with members of the group)

“Good Times” (Chic snippet)

“One Foot in the Grave”

“Where It’s At”

Cage the Elephant setlist

“Cry Baby”

“Broken Boy”


“Too Late to Say Goodbye”

“Cold Cold Cold”

“Ready to Let Go”

“Social Cues”

“Tokyo Smoke”

“Mess Around”


“Skin and Bones”

“Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”

“Back Against the Wall”

“It’s Just Forever”


“House of Glass”

“Come a Little Closer”

“Shake Me Down”

“Cigarette Daydreams”


Spoon setlist

“Knock Knock Knock”

“No Bullets Spent”

“The Way We Get By”

“Trouble Comes Running”

“The Underdog”

“Can I Sit Next to You”

“Inside Out”

“I Turn My Camera On”

“Don’t You Evah”

“Do You”

“Rent I Pay”

Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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