The Pearl, Aug. 8

Most performers save the best for last. But Beck isn’t most performers. Launching into “Devils Haircut” to kick off his set at the Pearl, it felt like 1996 all over again as he followed that hit from Odelay with beloved oldies “Loser” and “Novacane.”

Surrounded by a bevy of multitalented musicians all pulling double, triple and even quadruple instrument duty, perhaps Beck blew his wad a bit early, as the set began to drag from there. At times it even felt like Beck was struggling to keep up on the lyric front. However, the set was punctuated by a few surprises, such as his take on Bob Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” and the debut of new song “Bad Blood” for HBO’s True Blood.

Giving one fan the story of a lifetime, Beck called upon a guy in the front to whistle the opening on “Sissyneck.” But energy otherwise waned throughout the set. Even Beck noticed the tameness of the audience: “They’re still not feeling it, we need to turn it up more,” he said of the slide guitar. “A lot of ’80s guitar solos have been played in this town,” he joked, “I may just have to play one myself!” The crowd finally started returning to the excitement level of the first songs as he closed out the set with “Where It’s At,” prompting one male fan to rush—nay, … stroll casually on to the stage where he danced for a solid minute before security even noticed.

When the band returned to the stage, the three-song encore of “Girl,” a switch to a much funkier version of “Mutherfucker” mid-song (for what Beck called the “casino people” that needed to dance) and “E-Pro” had more punch than the entire set and fueled a few more people to climb onstage, much to the Pearl staff’s dismay. ★★★☆☆