"Wave" can be found on Morning Phase
. It is an atypical sort of song for Beck, which consists entirely of his voice over an orchestra.
Prior to the album coming out, Beck was asked about "Wave." Beck noted that it was one of the older songs on the album. But at the same time, it sounded like he didn't have a full grasp on the track: "I don't know if I have any perspective on it other than: I sat down to write, and that came out... I just have to accept that is what came out, and it represents something."
That said, he did agree with the interviewer that it might be tied to a period of bleak injury that Beck experienced. But less a song about injury, the song is more about "when will this end?" The "isolation" one experiences while feeling hopeless, the literal or figurative pain hitting you over and over, repeating like the tide.
Musically, I am impressed how the orchestra surrounds Beck's vocals. They juxtapose quite beautifully. The orchestra ebbs and flows, like a wave. Beck's vocals are less subtle in their swells, but his voice jumps up and down, matching the ocean of strings beneath. Together, they create depth.
Played live 52 times:
November 24, 2013March 1, 2014April 9, 2014April 10, 2014June 28, 2014June 30, 2014July 1, 2014July 12, 2014July 14, 2014July 15, 2014
...and 42 more
Earliest known live version: November 24, 2013
Latest known live version: October 12, 20192013/2014 live strings
"Wave" made it's live premiere in 2013, at Beck's Orchestral Song Reader show in November 2013. Morning Phase and its songs had been announced at the time, but not yet heard by anyone else. Since the show was done with the LA Philharmonic, Beck took the opportunity to play "Wave" with a full orchestra. And it was stunning.
A few months later, Beck performed "Wave" on Saturday Night Live, as promotion for Morning Phase. He did not use a full orchestra like in November, but there was a smaller string section with him. (Also Justin added some synthesizer, and a couple of his band sang backup.)
2014 Morning Phase tour band versions
On the first two shows of the actual Morning Phase tour, Beck performed "Wave." No string section on tour, his band recreated it expertly with a bunch of synthesizers and Smokey Hormel playing his electric guitar with a violin bow. It was quite impressive! Despite that, the song was then not played for 15 shows.
When the song returned later on the tour, the song sounded quite similar, with Gus on cello, and Smokey seems to have switched from violin bow to an ebow for his electric guitar. Roger and Justin add synthesizer, Jason and Joey sit out the song. From then on, Beck played "Wave" (to usually rousing reception) for more or less the rest of the tour.
2015-2017 post-Morning Phase tours
The song stuck around for a few years after Morning Phase
, albeit played infrequently (5 times in 2015, 5 in 2016, 4 in 2017). Mainly it seems to not fit his summer festival setlist vibe that he had going on for those years.
2018 Colors tour and 2019 Night Running tour
The song was not played at all during his Colors
tours of 2018, nor the big tour with Cage the Elephant of 2019.
2019 Indian version
After the Colors
tour ended, Beck took to playing many charity benefit gigs around Los Angeles. One of those was for the Hammer Museum at UCLA. Beck did a short set, backed by a small quintet of Indian musicians. They focused on the songs Beck has done with Indian instruments ("Nobody's Fault," "Loser"), but also some of the drone-y string ones, since Indian instruments can recreate that ("Blackhole" and "Wave"). (They also did "New Pollution" because why not?) I don't believe this show ever fully surfaced, but there are cobbled together snippets on Youtube.