Beck and Cage The Elephant Surmount More Than Expectations

By the end of the night, every single inch of the Cynthia Woods Mitchel Pavilion stage had been pranced, jumped, and stomped upon by the evening’s terrific performances.

The jam-packed Night Running tour hit Houston with a lineup of 4 generation-spanning acts tallying up 77 years of career music-making: from the powerful anthemic songs of Wild Belle to the experimental sounds of Texas-natives Spoon, from the relentlessly amped-up hits of Cage The Elephant to the electrifying genre-defying classics by Beck.

The familial opening act Wild Belle kicked off the concert with a uniquely funky reggae sound as multi-instrumentalist siblings Natalie and Elliot Bergman captivated the audience with her tour de force vocals and his heavy bari-sax melodies.

Although they’re only joining the Night Running tour temporarily, as this opening slot rotates between other acts such as Starcrawler and Sunflower Bean, Wild Belle staked their claim as a talented group deserving of the nation’s attention as they forced the Woodlands on their feet with songs like the ska-based “Keep You” and a thrilling set-closing performance of “Mockingbird.”

Following their performance was perhaps the best rock band to come out of Austin, Texas – Spoon. Only a couple days after the release of their latest album, Everything Hits at Once: The Best of Spoon, their show was similar to their compilation album in that it was full of rocking hits.

Houston was especially lucky in that it was the only Texas tour stop that was able to experience one of Spoon’s greatest jams, the titular track from their last concept album “Hot Thoughts”, in addition to masterfully mixed and performed songs such as the harpsichordical conundrum of Inside Out and the poppy upbeat “I Turn My Camera On”, making it impossible for concert-goers to stay in their seats without swaying to the music.

Houston isn’t just a tour stop on the Night Running tour – it also served as one of the many finish lines along Cage The Elephant’s victory lap following the success of their latest album, Social Cues, and the band’s fastest climb to Billboard’s #1 Alternative Songs Chart with “Ready to Let Go.”

Tennessee’s golden boys of hard rock opened their set with the introductory song from their new album, “Broken Boy,” before leading into their Tell Me I’m Pretty party-starter of “Cry Baby” as the band’s dynamic frontman, Matt Shultz, treated each meticulously selected mask, hat, and costume as a different onstage personality to embody.

If you’ve ever been to a Cage The Elephant concert, you’ll understand why everyone who witnesses Shultz’s unwavering energy compares his onstage antics to that of Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones (who just hit Houston the night before). In a show with high-flying pyrotechnics, ultra-colorful laser beams, and off the wall musical talent, it truly takes a special type of artist to command an audience’s attention the way that Shultz does on a stage full of wonderment. The opportunity to see a performer like this comes by once in a lifetime, and concertgoers were seemingly aware of how lucky they are to have seen him in person.

Crooning through the emotional ballads of “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Trouble” (with Matt Shultz serenading his brother, guitarist Brad Shultz during the latter) rocking through the experimental deep tracks of “It’s Just Forever” and “Teeth,” and blasting through the stadium staples of “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” and “Come A Little Closer,” Cage The Elephant showcased the very best of their phenomenal discography, and by the end of the show, when the band had cleared the stage, Shultz took to crowdsurfing and even climbed upon a lighting rig and hijacked the spotlight booth – in case anyone ever tried to fool you into believing that rock and roll was dead.

While it may seem like an impossible feat to follow up an act as hot as Cage the Elephant (so hot that even Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters filled in for the band on drums while their original drummer was ill in 2011), the 7-time Grammy winner Beck lived up to the hype as he entered the stage to pump out one of his most popular songs, “Loser,” right off the bat.

The mononymous pop rocker took the audience on a musical journey spanning across nearly three decades of music, turning out fans of all ages to enjoy a night’s celebration of alternative rock music that once defined a generation. Fearless to fuse rap and pop rock, Beck commandeered the stage through classic fanfares like “Where It’s At” and “Devil’s Haircut” while still reminding everyone that he’s still got it with new bops like “Up All Night” and “Wow” as the stage became vibrantly radiant with the bright lights and colorful LED display that have become synonymous with Beck’s brilliant compositions.

Unlike most nights’ encores during the Night Running tour, Cage The Elephant didn’t join Beck for the tours titular track, “Night Running,” with Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle dueting with Beck instead; however, most of the audience didn’t blame the hard rockers – we were also still recovering from their performance at the end of the night.

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