Live: Beach House Catches Fire

Beach House pic #1
(l to r) Victoria Legrand & Alex Scally. Photo by Jason Nocito.

WALTER'S ON WASHINGTON -- 4/23/2010: It seems that being a musician these days is more about finesse than power. Where volume may have sufficed more than a decade ago, the listening public has softened and heightened their musical palette. Beach House's recent success -- if not completely because of their latest release, Teen Dream, and its brilliance -- could be due to the fact that fans have become more sympathetic to music that might be not-so-instantly-gratifying, because of the onslaught of enigmatic and intelligent bands like Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. Beach House has produced three albums' worth of their delightfully understated, drifty, dark pop so far, but no one's really seemed to notice until now. As evidenced by the eager and excited, sold-out crowd of fan boys and girls at Walter's on Washington Friday night (and the fact that the rest of their U.S. tour is sold out, as well), Beach House has arrived.
They opened their set with the pulsing and bold "Walk in the Park," a song that demonstrates the band's panache for cinematic build and lead singer Victoria Legrand's arching chorus lines sung with heart-breaking urgency: "In a matter of time / It would slip from my mind / In and out of my life." The Baltimore trio carried on the set, hashing out all high points from Teen Dream: "Silver Soul" and "Norway," stirring as they were beautiful but only more so from sheer decibels, and mid-tempo sleeper gem "Better Times," whose middle eight bars show the band at its sunniest before sliding back into a languid chorus.
They dipped briefly into material from Devotion, only diverging from the crowd-pleasing rapport of Teen Dream to play "Heart of Chambers" and "Gila," Devotion's most memorable track and one that could fit easily anywhere on Dream with its now-characteristic slow/heavy drum line, meandering, melodic guitar lines, and familiar tropes within the progression. Happily, the warm response from the crowd for the album-old material showed that there were fans who had been following and enjoying Beach House's sedate rhythms and airy song-scapes pre-Teen Dream.
The second half of the set was littered with bits of Teen Dream's B-side. On the album, these songs sort of create an extended cadence to the A-side's powerful affect -- something I would describe as "emotional aftershock" -- but in the live setting, they took on a remarkable life of their own. Particularly striking were performances of album closer "Take Care" and "10-Mile Stereo", which kept the crowd jostling and bobbing all the way to album opener "Zebra," which Legrand and co. delivered with utmost energy and clarity. The crowd couldn't have stayed still if they'd wanted to.
Aside from minor sound problems in the band's monitors, which they dutifully ignored to continue playing, the performance was worthy of its sold-out status. The show took on a symbiotic form: the audience reeling at the chance to see Beach House on a white-hot tour after an outstanding, critically acclaimed third LP, and the road-worn band feeding off the crowd and delivering everything Teen Dream had to offer, both musically and emotionally. "You're giving us so much energy," Legrand remarked near the middle of the set, both grateful and humbled. END