"Round the Bend" can be found on Beck's 2002 album, Sea Change
Beck told the audience before playing "Round The Bend" on August 28, 2002 that "if you fall asleep while listening to this song, then it's working." The song, easily one of Beck's (or anyone's) slowest compositions, is just Beck's voice and acoustic guitar, overlaid with strings (reminiscent of Nick Drake - e.g., "River Man"). Justin Meldal-Johnsen does add a quiet bassline to it too.
It's no secret that Sea Change
is a heartbreak record, and while "Round The Bend" easily slots right in among that, it feels less explicitly about heartbreak than most of the songs. It is more about life hitting you hard. "Life goes where it does / faster than any bullet / from an empty gun." Life comes at you fast.
The song was previewed on stage on February 26, 2002, about a month before the song was recorded. There were a few different lyrics in it than there are in the final product. "Faster than any bullet / From an empty gun" was originally "You never will reveal / What you're hiding from." Also the "Make their daggers sharper / Than their faces tan" was "It is getting darker / Beauty is hard to tell." The end of the second verse was at first "paradise is cruel / when you're only going / round round..." instead of the repeated "loose change" lines. I definitely miss the "paradise is cruel" line, but he "bullet" and "dagger" additions are vivid.
A live version of the song was released on RollingStone.com. It was the performance recorded on August 16, 2002 in Cambridge.
Played live 50 times:
February 21, 2002February 22, 2002February 24, 2002February 26, 2002August 2, 2002August 3, 2002August 5, 2002August 6, 2002August 8, 2002August 9, 2002
...and 40 more
Earliest known live version: February 21, 2002
Latest known live version: July 7, 2013
Beck has played "Round The Bend" on stage a good amount, but almost entirely between 2002 and 2003. It has only shown up 5 times since then.
2002-2003 Sea Change tours
Premiered on February 21 2002, it was just Beck on acoustic guitar and Justin Meldal-Johnsen on stand-up bass. There were 4 versions in Feb 2002, and all of these pre-date the recording of Sea Change shortly thereafter.
Then later, the August 2002 tour saw "Round The Bend" played as a duet with Smokey Hormel. Smokey played his Les Paul guitar with a violin bow, to simulate the heavy strings of the record. They played it every night on this tour (20 shows).
The tour with the Flaming Lips in October 2002 continued with "Round the Bend" appearing frequently. The first seven shows all heard it, then not at all for the last four. Then on the second leg, it all but vanished. The shows tended to get more upbeat as the tour went on, so stuff like the slow "Round The Bend" were dropped. For the most part, the song was done by Beck alone on guitar, but the Lips did add a very subtle arrangement of lead guitar slides.
Spring 2003 saw another solo acoustic tour, this time in Europe, and Beck played the song regularly then.
2003 - present
Since 2003, Beck has basically stopped playing this. The song showed up at 3 shows in June 2005, when Beck and his Guero
band gave it a shot. Full band version is always cool to hear, but I guess it didn't really satisfy them, and it didn't stick.
Then in 2008, Beck did a special show at the Hollywood Bowl with his father conducting an orchestra. For that show, he leaned on every song on record that really features an orchestra... so "Round The Bend" was a natural inclusion. It sounded incredible, but since Beck didn't tour with an orchestra, the song did not remain in any setlists.
In 2013, Beck did a couple of acoustic gigs in Europe and at the show in London, Beck played a wild setlist, mixing all sorts of songs from his whole career and random covers all together. He doesn't do this enough anymore! But "Round The Bend" was dug out and performed solo.