Music review: Jarvis Cocker and Franz Ferdinand join Beck's Song Reader Live, The Barbican, London

4.00

Beth Orton, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Michael Kiwanuka are also among the gang interpreting the Scientologist’s songs for him

"I'm not sure how this song ends, maybe it never does," quips Beck on "Do We? We Do". Nobody knows how it ends, as the Californian has never recorded the track.

It seems a fair while since the alt-rocker was a vital part of the cultural zeitgeist, gracing hip magazine covers. His landmark Odelay was back in 1996; Sea Change was 2002.

So, to spice things up, the 42-year-old pioneer created Song Reader, an “album” that consists of a 108-page book of sheet music for the purchaser to perform themselves. Beck has claimed that the "record" is meant to “Be pulled apart and reshaped”. Do it yourself, in other words. Is it elitist or inclusive [or just plain cheap]?

Well, tonight we’re treated to Beck’s illustrious pals – including Jarvis Cocker, Franz Ferdinand, Beth Orton, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Michael Kiwanuka – interpreting the Scientologist’s songs for him. It’s a giddy line-up and hopes are high for a compelling experience, albeit one where you don’t actually recognise the tunes.

Do they pull it off? Hell, yeah. Right from the get go, with Joan As Police Woman's soulful interpretation of "Eyes That Say I Love You", it's clear that this is one concept that's actually going to work. It's helped enormously by having a sensational band, which includes Seb Rochford on drums, Tom Herbert on bass and Dave Okumi on guitar, holding the whole experiment together.

Every act pretty much interprets Beck's material in their own recognisable style. Franz Ferdinand are choppy and Iggy Pop-like on "Saint Dude" and "Leave Your Razors at the Door", Cocker is louche and droll on "Why Do You Make Me Care" and The Staves are rousing and hymnal on "Now That Your Dollar Bills Have Spouted Wings". However, the standouts are Villagers' Conor J O'Brien's sensitive take on "Old Shanghai" and Guillemots' wildly inventive, Bowie-esque version of "Saint Dude".

Even the four poets - a potential recipe for a So I Married an Axe Murderer fiasco - and their caustic readings work splendidly, particularly Simon Armitage's exceptionally lovely "Zodiac T-Shirt", John Cooper Clarke's tirade on sex and death, and The Mighty Boosh's amusing "We All Wear Cloaks". "A glockenspiel solo," Noel Fielding warns us, "it's the most sexual of all the instruments."

Perhaps this one-off concert gels so beautifully because every single artist involved has wholeheartedly bought into the idea. The diminutive Beck, in his trademark black hat, has never felt so vital. A totally unexpected triumph against, as Phil Collins once howled, all odds.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there