This review appears in Wireless Bollinger.
Wednesday night is a terrible night for a concert. Sandwiched between obligations and more obligations, the middle of the week probably does not fit anyone’s ideal of a relaxing night at the local venue. Thus, it was somewhat surprising to see a band such as Beach House sell out the Bowery Ballroom. That’s not a knock on their quality, but rather a distinction. The duo of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand create music that’s best enjoyed alone, not pressed against your fellow listeners.
“Thanks for being patient,” said opener Luke Temple by way of introduction. The statement rang true throughout his set, as his slow burners became more effective with each moment invested. Although far from arresting, each twangy song seemed to grow in impression. There were moments when one’s mind would wander, and then subconsciously sync up with Temple’s acoustic guitar or banjo plucks. His four man backup band – drummer, guitarist and two keyboardists – lent a soft but essential accompaniment. Dual backup vocals created a particular haunting moment halfway through the set. But Temple’s first impression proved prophetic: his last songs cut the hardest, with the volume swelling.
MP3: Luke Temple - Private Shipwreck
MP3: Luke Temple - Someone, Somewhere
MySpace: Luke Temple
Official Site: Luke Temple
Papercuts was a woozy, spiritual kin to the headliners. Singer Jason Quever’s wistful vocals meshed with a comfortable bass drone and washed out guitar. An organ-sounding keyboard and minimal percussion completed the mood. It was dream pop at its haziest, with lyrics secondary to melody. The simplest analogy is: Papercuts is what Beach House would sound like if they were a band and upped their tempo. Such a scenario turned out to be quite imaginable – Alex Scally was playing keys during the set and Victoria Legrand was invited onstage for the band’s last song, adding wordless vocals.
Beach House reappeared dressed in white. The normally sparse Bowery stage was bedecked in their carefully selected trappings: a painted screen of waves and a toy swan. The lighting was more subtraction than addition, with only hints of color amidst a sea of darkness. Legrand played keys with surprising energy, tossing her mane of long hair and swaying to the beat. Scally was more introverted, leaning over to fiddle with gear, concentrating on his guitar or briefly adding backup singing. Quever would add percussion at times, but his role seemed largely perfunctory as the same reverberating beat started off each song.
Unfortunately, the set did suffer from homogeneity. While one could hardly expect excessive energy, there wasn’t much to be surprised about. The music was gorgeous, with Legrand’s bewitching voice floating above the band’s aural dreamscape, but it didn’t gain much compared to the studio albums. Perhaps the most interesting development was Legrand’s outgoing banter throughout the set. She introduced the band’s cover of Daniel Johnston’s ‘Some Things Last a Long Time’ in a fake drawl, then wondered aloud why she had been using that voice. She later said, only half-jokingly, that she had stolen the swan from Connecticut, and would continue to steal from the neighboring state.
All in all, it was an enjoyable show, but not a revelation. It probably did little change anyone’s opinion of the band, whether positive or negative.
MP3: Beach House - Gila
MP3: Beach House - Master of None
MySpace: Beach House
Official Site: Beach House