@ZackTeibloom Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. When it comes down to Outkast vs. Beck, the only acceptable answer is both. When ACL booked these two wildly inventive, world-class performers in the same time slot, it became mandatory to go to Friday night of both weekends and see each headliner. So that’s what we did. We started with Outkast weekend one and were floored by Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s unmatched give and take, their playfulness and the supreme highs of the show. The biggest hits (“Hey Ya,” “Ms. Jackson” and “Roses”) were, to put it in Outkast speak, “SpottieOttieDopalicious” and as much fun as one could have at any festival show. We had such a blast that Caitlin couldn’t fathom not doing it again the next week, but having seen Beck four times, I knew we wouldn’t forgive ourselves if he played four times in Austin this year and we missed all four. So did we make the right move? Was Beck just as good, if not better than Outkast? Let’s break it down by opening song, banter, hits, deep cuts, stage presence, band introductions and closing number and come to a conclusion.
Opening song: Outkast: “B.O.B.” | Beck “Devil’s Haircut”
They both came out swinging. Outkast with their rapid-fire Stankonia thumper “B.O.B.” and Beck with his Odelay-opening heavy riff driven “Devil’s Haircut.” Each song set the bar sky high for the rest of the set, got the crowd moving and singing along and did everything you want from an opener. You want to get the crowd hooked with a hit from several albums ago that was not only massively popular, but also somehow managed to never get too overplayed. Perfect choices by both acts.
Andre 3000 is a total goober. He talked about wanting to go “Super Saiyan” half a dozen times. Apparently this is a Dragon Ball Z thing. He’d also say things like, “Gentlemen – if you’re with your woman, take your two longest fingers and stick them in her panties. I’m just kidding. But I’m not. If you don’t get any tonight, don’t say I didn’t try to help.” Well, then. He was often funny and clearly enjoying messing around between songs. His partner in crime is more of the silent type. Big Boi doesn’t say much and what he has to contribute isn’t all that notable. On the other hand, Beck was a never-ending stream of hilarity. When he pulled crime scene tape across the stage and asked us what kinds of laws he wanted us to defy and then asked why we wanted to defy “Sax” laws, he had me in hysterics. He spun off his already hilarious lyrics to “Debra” into “I Believe I Can Fly” and used every minute of his 75 to find bits of humor and playfulness to inject into the show.
Major Advantage: Beck
We had a ton of fun with the “Loser” sing-a-long. We got down to “Black Tambourine” and “Hell Yes,” and I was super into “Sexx Laws” even if I found myself among a number of fans who weren’t all that into Midnite Vultures tracks. This was all well and good, but as much fun as tens of thousands of people singing “Soyyyyy, un perridor!” is, it has nothing on the Outkast hits. Caitlin and I were discussing the merits of “Hey Ya” as one of the absolute best songs of the last 15 years. And it’s just as fun live as you’d imagine. Ditto “Ms. Jackson. We danced our asses off and just had a sublimely good time. We loved the Beck hits, but when Outkast is running on all cylinders, there’s few better.
Major Advantage: Outkast
Don’t be mad at me, serious Outkast fans. I’ve got serious love for the “Vibrate” and “GhettoMusick” and “Aquemini’s” of the world. Outkast is chock full of great tracks. But, they didn’t make them pop like they did with their singles. Beck made every song count. Halfway through the deeper honky-tonk sounding “Sissyneck” he noticed the crowd was only half into it, so he took a several minute long “Billie Jean” break. It was incredible. I took an instagram video of it. Beck did stuff like this all throughout his set. He kept infusing little snippets of covers and spinning off songs that are already crowd favorites like “Debra” off into “I Believe I Can Fly” teases. He made sure every song was a ride. Outkast played a great set, but the deeper cuts lagged at times. At least compared to the whirlwind that was Beck.
Major Advantage: Beck
When Outkast made their big comeback at Coachella, there were complaints that Andre had his back to the audience and they didn’t seem to enjoy playing together as much anymore. It’s certainly improved since then, but Andre can still shy away at times and Big Boi doesn’t ooze charm like Andre does without even trying to. They’re still intriguing to watch, but Beck was just a tour de force. It was his last show of the year and he left it all out on the table. He danced his ass off, was funny, clever and easily the most electric performer I saw all festival.
Beck made his introductions into a whole production. Each band member riffed on a classic cover as Beck sidled up next to them and it made for some of the most enchanting moments of his set. Outkast let every band member shine as well, but it felt more dragged out than something worth getting excited about. On the second weekend, Beck ended 30 minutes before Outkast and we could have heard Outkast’s band introductions, but decided to beat the traffic instead.
Major Advantage: Beck
On that note, Beck’s band introduction was in the middle of his barn burner of a closer “Where It’s At.” By the time Outkast’s band introductions ended, they still had time for “The Whole World.” It’s a super fun song and we love the inclusive message, but again, we didn’t even feel it was worth sticking around for a second time Friday night. I wouldn’t have missed “Where It’s At” without a good reason. Beck ended stronger.
- Outkast: 9.65 A must-see on their reunion tour, Outkast had a nearly flawless set with highs that were as high as any act can provide. There weren’t any real lows, but they didn’t keep up the sky-high level that they delivered with their most treasured hits. I feel lucky to have experienced this show and hope they’re not done touring because I’m not done with them.
- Beck: 9.85 The best set of the weekend and a truly remarkable headlining performance by an artist who has complete control of his diverse catalog and knows exactly how to extract the most out of every minute on stage.