At least once during the summer there’s a tour rolling through that’s stupendously stacked. From the opener to the headliner each act is incredibly talented and it’s worth it to show up early. That’s exactly what went down at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass, Thursday. It was heaven for any fan of alternative and indie rock as the legendary Beck and rock & roll partystarters Cage The Elephant dually headlined the show as part of their ‘Night Running Tour.’
As if that wasn’t enough, up-and-comers Sunflower Bean and underground icons Spoon provided opening sets.
There was a good amount of people present when Sunflower Bean took the stage but it was apparent that the majority weren’t going to show up until later on. It was a shame, because the New York City act brought their mix of power-pop and punk with infectious harmonies coming from Julia Cumming on bass and guitarist Nick Kivlen. Jacob Faber exhibited some bombastic drumming while keyboardist Danny Ayala incorporated a New Wave edge. At one point during the performance, Ayala was playing with his head underneath the instrument and he even played it sideways. Cumming also showed off her wide-ranging voice while going solo on the mic and people were pogoing up and down, it was refreshing to see a bunch of musicians in their early 20s killing it on a big stage.
Jim Eno made a beat on the kit and Spoon took things over with “Do I Have To Talk You Into It” and followed it up with “That’s The Way We Get By.” Their latest single “No Bullets Spent” took them back to their roots with more guitar and less pianos. Then they grabbed hold of the growing audience with their hit, “The Underdog,” with the atmosphere becoming jubilant while a good amount of folks stood for the entire song. I joined in on standing until someone hucked an ice cube at my back and I sat back down (Who does that? Really?). A few minutes later, I stood back up in sheer defiance and while multi-instrumentalists Alex Fischel and Gerardo Larios joined Britt Daniel on intro vocals for “Do You.” Spoon then finished things off with “Rent I Play” for a ripping conclusion.
After a bit of a wait, the lights over the grandstand dimmed and Cage The Elephant literally lit the stage on fire with “Broken Boy” and “Cry Baby.” Frontman Matt Shultz switched his leather cap and mask for a straw hat as the band went into “Spiderhead” with exciting stage presence that had the thousands engaged. “Ready To Let Go” brought the cap back as the frontman mingled with the crowd and an interesting trend started as Shultz constantly changed wardrobes with each song. He started with a baggy suit, then a bike jersey with spandex shorts and ultimately a tan leotard and red basketball shorts. Shultz even had a fedora on at one point and the constant switching was done while he had a leopard print fanny pack latched to his side the entire time.
Going back to the performance, during “Skin & Bones” Shultz did a weird head stand that had him in the fetal position and “No Rest For The Wicked” had everyone singing each word. “Telescope” lit up the place with numerous cell phones and lighters in the air and it all flickered away with “Shake Me Down,” “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Teeth” as fog swept the first few rows and Shultz crowd surfed into the upper rows. Cage The Elephant has a reputation for being a wild time when they take the stage and on this night they lived up to it.
Encompassed in a cyber-like and sleek set up, Beck was centerstage with an acoustic guitar. He did a few slide strums and “Loser” had people going nuts. “Up All Night” had a spellbinding light show going on, it was one of many instances of psychedelic art flowing from the background to the crowd. His solo improvised version of “Debra” was ambitious but I think half the crowd didn’t know the words when he tried getting them involved. It seemed from the looks of it, Beck and his band were performing in front of a lot of new and younger fans. He then went into his newest single “Saw Lightning,” which had a lot of harmony and it was heavy with the beats.
The lights came back to mystify during “Dreams” with a flurry of groovy riffs. A couple classics in “The New Pollution” and “Devil’s Haircut” took hold with the latter bringing more of a punk vibe. “Lost Cause,” “Dear Life” and “E-Pro” closed out the initial set with giant balloons bouncing everywhere. With a feverish notion, it was telling that Beck and his band weren’t done yet.
For an encore the keyboards hinted towards it and then the crowd cheered for “Where It’s At.” Beck then wished someone in the audience a happy birthday, introduced his backing band of guitarist Jason Falkner, keyboardists Alex Lilly and Roger Manning, bassist Dwayne Moore and drummer Chris Coleman, with the latter going into a crazy solo. Daniel then came back up to join Beck for a condensed version of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.” Shultz and his brother Brad on guitar then came back up to join Beck to perform “Night Running,” there was a noticeable ska tone to it that was a bit of a departure. Beck then went old school with “One Foot In The Grave” while blowing on a harmonica and it all concluded with a reprise of “Where It’s At” as confetti rained on everyone and everything.
There was a buzz all over the XFinity Center that made a Thursday night feel like a weekend bash. It was an abundance of musical excellence that didn’t have any letdowns and the show was definitely a highlight of the summer.