William Beckett performs at the House Cafe

By Katie Finlon

William Beckett saw fit to rickroll DeKalb, the first stop of his new tour, after wishing his fans a “Great Night.”

Beckett, former lead singer of alternative band The Academy Is…, kicked off his “What Will Be” tour 9 p.m. Friday at the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway.

This is the first time Beckett has performed in DeKalb, but he isn’t a stranger to the northern Illinois area—his home is in Barrington and he has lived in cities like North Lake, Oak Park and Elk Grove Village.

Beckett has been faced with many questions as to why The Academy Is… broke up. He wanted to do his own thing musically and explore as a solo artist without being limited to what his band does.

However, he played two The Academy Is… songs on Friday: “Down and Out” and “Classifieds.” The audience was appreciative, one member yelling, “That was a badass song.”

An apparently stunned Beckett replied, “Thank you.”

“This tour is very much about getting back to the roots of why I do this in the first place,” Beckett said. “It’s essentially just sharing my songs, sharing stories through songs and interactions. It’s about connecting with people.”

Beckett came to perform at the House acoustically, but he was accompanied by his “band in a box”—or, rather, his laptop with pre-recorded bass and drum backtracks.

“I wanted it to be something that had a big impact still because I didn’t want this misconception that my new solo material is acoustic, folky stuff, ‘cause it’s not,” Beckett said. “It’s full production and sounds like a band, but I wanted to do this without a band, so I brought one that doesn’t talk back or smell,” he added with a chuckle.

Beckett’s latest album is “The Pioneer Sessions,” which was released Jan. 21. He recently finished writing his full-length album—the name of which has yet to be released—and he said it will be available later this summer or in early fall.

Beckett had more good news to report to his fans: He was just signed onto Equal Vision Records, and he made a debut performance at the DeKalb show for one track from his unnamed album, “Benny and Joone.”

“This is my first time playing it, so if I screw it up, don’t put it on YouTube,” Beckett joked to the audience.

Jillette Johnson, pianist, singer and songwriter, opened for Beckett, and she is scheduled to tour with Beckett for the rest of “What Will Be.”

Beckett found Johnson online and asked her to tour with him. For fun, they have covered each others’ songs and posted them on YouTube; Beckett covered Johnson’s song “Torpedo” and Johnson covered Beckett’s iTunes No. 1 hit, “Oh, Love!”

Beckett will perform at the Vans Warped Tour this year, and he will start touring with bands Relient K and Hellogoodbye. One performance will be held May 19 at Chicago’s House of Blues.

“It’s not only that he’s a really talented musician, but he’s also super nice,” said Jasmine Hebel, 20 of Kentland, Ind.

Beckett may be keeping himself busy, but he seems to always make time for fans. He showed just that by staying a while and talking to audience members that stuck around to get a picture, a high-five, an autograph or a conversation.