"Lonesome Tears" is another heavily orchestrated song from Sea Change
. Beck buried a dramatic, downer of a song underneath waves of strings, which have an exciting and climactic coda. It is certainly one of Sea Change
Lyrically, Beck seems to have written his own Hank Williams standard. The lyrics of those old country classics are always so simple and effective in their phrases and emotions ("I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry
"), tapping into universal feelings. (As Beck explained it himself on September 15 2002 in the LA Times, "The thing that is so amazing about Williams is simplicity. He was so disciplined and so economical. There was no filter on his emotions.") Not many lines in "Lonesome Tears" would be out of place in one of Williams' songs.
Further, not only does the simplicity enhance the emotional appeal, but it also shows off some clever wordplay of the chorus ("how could this love ever-changing / Never change..."). This sort of clever phrase is very common in a lot of old songs, and I always am struck by "Lonesome Tears" doing this too. It is not wordplay to be clever or silly, it is wordplay as real deep expression.
Played live 122 times:
August 2, 2002August 3, 2002August 8, 2002August 9, 2002August 11, 2002August 16, 2002August 17, 2002August 18, 2002August 20, 2002August 26, 2002
...and 112 more
Earliest known live version: August 2, 2002
Latest known live version: September 26, 2013
"Lonesome Tears" has been re-adapted by Beck for the stage in different ways (since he doesn't tour with an orchestra).
2002-2003 Sea Change tours
"Lonesome Tears" made its live debut on August 2 2002, in Seattle. Beck played it alone on the piano throughout his August solo acoustic tour (at 12 of the 20 shows), though a number of times he stopped it before finishing because he was not in the right mood for it. At the show I saw, he completed it, and really did seem affected by the song. On another show, he preceded it by saying "This one's a weeper," and he sounds kind of guilty about indulging in it. But he shouldn't...I don't think anyone minds! Beck and Smokey also played the song on KCRW in September.
Next, Beck went on tour with The Flaming Lips as his band for the fall of 2002. And in many ways, "Lonesome Tears" was the highlight of their collaboration. They had this one down. The Lips progressive-rock abilities filled out all the strings, and the long coda was fantastic. This still seems to me to be a song Beck gets lost in while singing (in a good way, I mean). They did the song every night together.
2003 was another run of different legs: a quick trip to Australia/Japan with his old band, a solo acoustic run through Europe, and a summer festival circuit with a new band. "Lonesome Tears" was played at pretty much every show in this time. The song seems to be able to bounce between played solo and band (though band ones were most popular at this time).
2005 Guero tours
Beck played "Lonesome Tears" solo on January 17 2005 at the concert he did to benefit the 2004 tsunami victims in south Asia. The unique thing about this version was that it was on harmonium! "Nobody's Fault But My Own" was the usual harmonium showpiece, but perhaps Beck was getting tired of doing that one so adapted "Lonesome Tears" to the instrument. Nice! Later on when the Guero
tour started up for real, he sort of went back and forth on the two songs on harmonium, though "Lonesome Tears" was far fewer (around 12 times in 2005).
2006-2007 Info tours
Beck dropped the song entirely in 2006, though did pick it back up four times in 2007 at the tail end of The Information
tours, on the Japanese leg. One of these was quite interesting, it was mainly solo acoustic -- but the band sang gospel harmony to back him up.
2008 Guilt tours
Then in 2008, Beck played it 3 more times live. The first was to practice for the second time, which was his Hollywood Bowl performance, where he used an orchestra conducted by his father for 6-7 songs. Naturally, "Lonesome Tears" was one of those, as its string arrangement on record is so epic. They then did a few nights after that, without an orchestra, but then dropped it entirely again.
2013 Station To Station shows
Beck resurrected "Lonesome Tears" for his two gigs on the Station To Station
tour/events. He utilized a gospel choir for the show, which brought out an entirely new angle on the song. Gospel music is often this mix of sadness and uplift, and "Lonesome Tears" really works this way. Beck has not played the song since these two times, however.