Monday, March 29, 2010

Concert Review: Beach House at the Black Cat

Beach House @ The Black Cat
Friday March 26, 2010
w/ Bachelorette

Victoria Legrand is the ultimate band girl. And I would like to be her friend. No, more than friends. I would like to be her best friend. We could exchange BFF necklaces, paint each other's nails and make friendship bracelets together. And at the end of the day, it would be understood that it's one of those uneven friendships, where one person (me) is constantly idolizing and looking up at the other (VLG, which by the way is the nickname I have assigned her). It's likely that our moms are friends and her mom forces her to hang out with me. But she does it willingly, because she's too cool to care and has her eyes set on the cosmos rather than the pettiness of friendships.

When Beach House took the stage at the Black Cat Friday night, all eyes were on Legrand as she stood front and center over her synth, shaking her shaggy mane and wailing like a loosed phenom. She is a commanding presence to witness, and her live act is only slightly more unsteady than her solid-as-a-rock poise on Teen Dream. Vocally, Legrand hovers androgynously somewhere between a banshee and a phone-sex operator, with inevitable Stevie Nicks comparisons-- and like Nicks she leads her band with a certain relaxed authority and great bangs. Even with excessive reverb coming through the mic, some looping of vocal tracks and drums playing over pre-recorded drums, Beach House’s sound never seemed contrived; this is partly due to Legrand’s naturally booming voice, which retained an organic quality despite the effects. It was just authentic enough to recreate that surround-sound, total-immersion effect without blatantly replicating the album echo by echo. (more after the jump)

This was the first show of Beach House’s U.S. tour, and they played to a sold-out crowd that seemed equally enthralled with Legrand as I was. Or perhaps they were enchanted by Alex Scally’s sizable mustache. This is not to discount Scally’s guitar work—he is absolutely crucial to the Baltimore band’s sound, leading the entire melody with intricate licks. This was especially evident on “Zebra,” an especially well-done number, featuring both Legrand and Scally on droney, lulling vocals layered atop Scally’s hypnotic up-and-down riff. “Zebra” is one of the cleanest, best-executed songs on Teen Dream, and it lived up to expectations as Legrand connected with the crowd, making rare eye contact as she belted, “Don’t I know you better than the rest?”
The album’s most aggressive track, “Norway,” was clearly the crowd favorite, and Legrand’s breathy huffs garnered shouts and applause. Most of the set came from Teen Dream, and while I was initially worried that such a synth-heavy, fine-tuned studio album wouldn't translate to the stage, now that Beach House has added a drummer to their touring lineup it translated almost too perfectly—there weren’t any surprises, for better or worse.
“Used to Be,” a delicate, alluring number, was on point, with a light tambourine that pulled the whole performance together. All three members were certainly in sync for this one, and Legrand reached the height of vocal performance with some well-placed (intentional or not) voice cracks that you don’t get on the album. They closed the main set with “Take Care,” carrying over the band synchronization from “Used to Be” to build evenly towards the song’s arresting climax.
While Legrand’s stage banter could use some work—her mumbles were impossible to understand from the middle of the crowd—I was plenty content for her to just keep singing, a testament to the intoxicating lure of the music. As the band launched into the last set of the encore, a solid version of “10 Mile Stereo,” Legrand saluted the crowd: “Now we send you off into the galaxy of Saturday.” With the band basked in red light, with silver flashes glinting off their stage decorations—hanging glittery geometric shapes— and the earliest minutes of Saturday quickly passing, I believed her; the band seemed to play from some higher plane, a Beach House on the coast of some foreign planet far, far away.
-- Caroline Klibanoff
"Melodious Intoxication," Thursdays 12-2 p.m. on WGTB


igs said...

"Legrand hovers androgynously somewhere between a banshee and a phone-sex operator"


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