Beach House w/ Zomes
Tuesday, May 15
Better than: Having to wait two more months to see Beach House perform at Summerstage.
I’ve never had 500-plus people in the palm of my hand, but I imagine it must be a powerful feeling. Every eyeball fixated on you, every pair of hands waiting for you to stop singing so they can clap. At this point in their careers, Beach House‘s members should be no strangers to this feeling, yet their sheer charisma makes it seem like a brand new feeling for them. At the Bowery Ballroom—during a show celebrating the release of their gorgeous fourth album, Bloom—the band unleashed sound and fury and a lot of bright lights. As colors faded in and out of sight, seemingly in tandem with the intensity of singer Victoria Legrand, the trio showered the adoring crowd with the music they so desperately craved. There may have been tears from a gentleman behind me, although those might have come because the other half of Beach House, Alex Scally, was ignoring his obnoxious shouts of “ALEX!”
Beach House has perfected that intensity over the years; their first two records featured it in unbound quantities, sometimes overwhelming the music itself. With Teen Dream, that intensity turned into glittering passion. But on Bloom, the intensity matches the tone and creates a stunning work of art. This was more obvious than ever hearing songs from the new release juxtaposed against older standards; transitioning from “Lazuli” to Devotion favorite “Gila” was jarring in the best possible way. Ditto the later transition between “Equal Mind” and one of Bloom‘s standout tracks, “The Hours,” during which Legrand did some of her strongest vocal work.
However, the real star of the show was the atmosphere. This is an easy claim to make about a band that more or less lives off of creating new worlds for its listeners, but being in a room with them and 500 of your new best friends really makes that sink in. How else can you explain the audience harmonizing during “Norway”? Or the chilling promises of “New Year” washing away all cynicism? Even when things didn’t go according to plan, the warmth of the set carried over: about a third of the way through “Myth” Scally’s equipment had a glitch, which led to some awkward and charming banter by Legrand about wanting to be a standup comedian post-Beach House and being absolutely terrified of something like this happening. She also encouraged everyone to “go grab a martini… but shoot it, we’ll be right back on.” Without a hitch, the band kicked back into the song from the start. (The extra rendition of the first verse was a sign of how lucky the crowd was.)
It was almost required that you transport yourself to the world expertly crafted by the Baltimore duo (plus their excellent live drummer); the rewards for your devotion (lowercase d) included the encore’s “10 Mile Stereo,” perhaps the band’s most well-known song. The bridge cut off the music for a quick second and the atmosphere shifted to one more fitting a rock show: Scally’s guitar picked up its energy, the drums boomed as if they had someone’s ear to break, and Legrand started almost smashing her keyboard while shouting her lyrics.
Of course, that was just a prequel to the final song of the set, and of Bloom. “Irene” is a drowsy track on record, the very definition of a slow-burner. But man, what a burn it is. Sparse in lyrics, it allows Legrand to extend vowels and lets Scally play his woozy guitars at a comfortable pace. It’s a nice reminder of how beautiful this band can be, and it was bringing a smile to everyone’s face… right up until the band turned it to 11 and everyone’s jaws hit the floor. It’s rare that a band can switch such a gorgeous song into a pure rock cut, especially at the end of a grueling and emotional set, but Beach House did: aided by steady and booming percussion, Scally started blasting his guitar before giving way to Legrand. Deciding that enough was enough, she let out her inner rock star and roared the climatic lyrics: “It’s a strange paradise!” Each time it was sung, she yelled louder and louder, and longer too, until it was frankly bewildering that she had that in her still. Perhaps that is why not a single person moved after the encore ended: how could we not want more?
Critical bias: I had the stupidest grin on my face throughout the entire set.
Overheard: “DO YOU SMOKE ANY WEED?” We know you do, bro.
Random notebook dump: “I would totally wear a men’s version of Victoria’s rainbow shirt.”
Walk in the Park
10 Mile Stereo
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 16, 2012