"Blue Moon" is a song on Beck's upcoming album, Morning Phase.
Beck explained in a radio interview that "Blue Moon" was not recorded with the rest of Morning Phase, and instead of featuring his band, he made it "at home while fooling around." (Roger and Joey do appear on it though.) Beck even referred to it as a "demo." After making the song, he forgot about it until the last minute, when he rediscovered it, and it seemed to fit with the rest of the album he had been working on. Ironically, it then became the lead-off representative single for Morning Phase.
There is, of course, a very famous song called "Blue Moon," one of Elvis' biggest and earliest hits. It includes the lines "Blue moon / you saw me standing alone" and clearly uses the rare event of a blue moon to symbolize the rare event of finding love. You can read about the song here. That song goes back farther than Elvis too. More directly, Beck uses a line or two as a jumping-off point for his own song.
Beck did note the song's connection to Elvis in a couple of interviews, so it seems to have been a fairly explicit and purposeful reference. He told Filter Magazine, that the song "came to him" while reading Peter Gualnick's biography of Elvis, Careless Love: The Unmaking Of Elvis Presley. As he wrote "Blue Moon," Beck was imagining Elvis at the end of his career, isolated by fame. "[Elvis] was far removed from where he started, which was this sort of beautiful, pure place. He was just this kid who wanted to play music," Beck explained. (He's mentioned "isolation" in regards to this song a few times. Also, note how that ties it to "Wave.")
Beck took "Blue Moon" to a more universal place, though, and was not just writing about Elvis' situation. He continued, "And that's just the way life is. It's like the Talking Heads song - 'how did I get here?' What is it? And I think that's what happens around that period in your life. You get to a certain point where you're just, 'How did I...?' I was thinking about Elvis at that moment and that was heartbreaking to me." [Quote from Filter Magazine Feb. 2014] This idea of I should be at one place, while I'm at another, is frustrating for anyone, but perhaps even more tragic in a figure like Elvis who should have been able to go anywhere he wanted and had more freedom.
"Blue Moon"'s music infuses these relatively dark themes with a bit of hope, the chirpy clavinet bringing some uplift to its lonesome lyrics and haunted melody. It is not all sadness here, the music continually introducing new moments -- that little acoustic guitar break, the clavinet solo, even the progression of the song and the way it flows into different sections.
"Blue Moon" was probably the key Morning Phase song for the stage show on the 2014 tours. Beck played 57 shows, and "Blue Moon" at 55 of them. He also did it two other times on television, before the tour started.
The live debut came on Saturday Night Live, when Beck's band included Father John Misty as an extra guitarist/singer. A few weeks later, they also did it on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show, but with Chris Price as the extra guitarist. During the actual tours, for the first leg, there was no extra guitarist, and then Jason Falkner joined the group permanently in that position. Probably, the more voices/guitarists the better, on a song like "Blue Moon."
I like Father John Misty's additional voice on the song, but there's something about the performance on Ellen that I particularly love:
Anyway, for the most part, the song did not sound different from the record. They basically recreated it on stage. The song sounds good, and has many different sections that all flow quite nicely and naturally. Over the course of the tour, the song did seem to speed up a little bit, and could sometimes have a bit of aggression to it, which I find a little strange. The song works better with a lighter touch (as on Ellen there). Also, I find that this is a song that does not quite work when you're listening on a staticy, fuzzed out audience bootleg recording. Some songs can handle it no problem, but this one needs a clear sound quality for to shine (as on Ellen there). Or to be there in person, of course.
2015-2017 post-Morning Phase tour
Following the Morning Phase tours, Beck toured sporadically in 2015-2017, a few legs each year. They played "Blue Moon" at all shows in 2015, and most shows in 2016 (a handful of festivals did not get it). It sounds the same as in 2014, really.
Beck expanded his band (and got a new drummer) in the summer of 2017, and "Blue Moon" was played every night. I quite enjoy their version of the song: still not much different from the record, but the 3 new musicians allow for even more subtlety and flavor in person. Also I dig what Dwayne Moore (bass) and Chris Coleman (drums) are doing; they aren't recreating JMJ and Joey here, but have their own rhythm. Here is one good example:
On the U2 tour of September, it was played at the first 2 shows and then for the first time, dropped out of the setlist rotation (it was a short set, something had to go).