"Evil Things" was initially heard by fans on stage on February 26, 2002. Eddie Vedder joined him, which is a bit odd considering it was a previously unknown Beck song. But still, their two voices work well together, though Eddie stays in the background. It's a relatively dark, moody song.
Beck recorded the song as a demo to bring to the Sea Change
sessions shortly after the live appearance, but he ran out of time to record it proper for that album. The song then vanished.
But a decade later, in May 2013, the song showed up out of nowhere on stage again! It was still haunting, Beck added a bridge section to the song and sang "these evil things don't follow me now" instead of "rattle me now." Besides that, the lyrics are more or less identical.
I don't know if Beck still has that original Sea Change demo of "Evil Things," but it is known that he has the bootleg of at least some of the 2002 show where he performed it. (He once played his duet with Thom Yorke from that night on a radio show.) What made him dig this song back up?
Anyway, after that 2013 show, the song was recorded officially and finally for what would become the Morning Phase
album. The bridge section from May is still there; though with different lyrics. Also "rattle me now" is back.
Beck did some early interviews for Morning Phase, in which he explained some of the themes of the album (a fresh start after a period of darkness, morning, etc.) and I think "Evil Things" embodies many of them. And it does so in such a way that it makes me wonder if reconsidering "Evil Things" triggered the entire album and was somehow direct inspiration for all of Morning Phase. Either way, at some point recently, Beck must have been struck by "Evil Things" and felt the need to finish it.
Despite all that, and somewhat surprisingly, however, "Evil Things" never ended up on Morning Phase
. When the album was given/streamed to some music journalists to preview before release, the song was included. But when the album came out officially a few months later, it had been dropped, and there it remains. Beck's decision to remove it, and his reasons have not been explained. But in a tantalizing and frustrating recurrence of deja vu, "Evil Things," for the second time, did not make the final cut of one of Beck's albums.
Played live 2 times:
Earliest known live version: February 26, 2002
Latest known live version: May 19, 2013
Back in 2002, Beck performed "Evil Things" at a special charity show. Eddie Vedder sang back-up on the song.
Then in May 2013, Beck pulled the song up and played it again! (It would then be recorded for Morning Phase.) The song is alive and well.
I hope we can hear it more on stage, it's still haunting and beautiful.