Despite a decade's worth of best-selling records, Beck still doesn't seem like an arena act. Forget his rep as a generally indifferent live performer; his latest disc, "Guero," returns to the loose-limbed indie hip-pop he mastered on 1996's "Odelay," and that conjures up an intimate, rambling evening at the Black Cat. But Mr. Hansen played Patriot Center on Wednesday night, and the show was certainly a large-scale exercise. The music didn't always hold together against the acoustics of the basketball arena over the 80-minute performance, but enough did to make for a successful, if hardly scintillating, outing.
True to his roving musical nature, Beck and his percussion-centric six-piece band wandered an eclectic thematic landscape. Shambling indie pop ("Devil's Haircut," "Black Tambourine," "Girl") was the foundation, with shoots of acoustic-based ramblers (a warbly "Guess I'm Doing Fine," a snippet of Skip James's "Mighty Good Leader," a stumbling version of "Loser") and multi-culti sprawl (the percolating "Que Onda Guero").
Interestingly, Beck seemed most engaged when he made the stage feel the smallest: wading with acoustic guitar into the melancholy waters of "Lost Cause," then gathering his troops around him to bang on pots, pans and glasses for a tingling "Clap Hands." Full-on charges at "Sexx Laws" and "E-Pro" followed, but their electric blips and bursts just doused the organic spark and put their creator back into an autopilot mode from which he dutifully finished delivering his best-known tunes.
-- Patrick Foster
Judd and Maggie
If there is any sibling rivalry between brother-and-sister duo Judd and Maggie, it didn't show Wednesday night at Jammin' Java. The two musicians from Frederick (Maggie on bass, Judd on guitar and keyboard) traded lead vocals and harmonies. Indeed, their strength lay in that balance of complementary sounds: Maggie's angelic warmth offset Judd's overserious tone, and the blend of their voices on "Perfectly" heightened the song's passionate uneasiness.
Although their formula didn't always work (the unremarkable "Sleeper" was a snooze), for the most part those harmonies added a rich texture to their bouncy pop-rock. The bright "A Subject I Am" played calmly like a lullaby despite its upbeat tempo, while "Snow Song" captured the dreaminess of a snowfall. And on a cover of Travis's "Ring Out the Bell," Judd's voice grounded Maggie's resonant soprano, keeping it from floating too high heavenward.
For most of the group's just-over-an-hour show, Judd and Maggie performed with a drummer and a guitarist. But they were equally comfortable alone together: On their final song, the phenomenal "One Year Past 20," Maggie's melancholy vocals were steadied by Judd's delicate keyboard. And although Maggie joked about their partnership ("We have five other siblings, so I have more to choose from if this doesn't work out"), it was clear that breaking up these two won't be necessary.
-- Catherine P. Lewis