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Beach House at First Avenue, 10/9/12

Beach House at First Avenue, 10/9/12
Photo By Erik Hess

Beach House
With Poor Moon
First Avenue, Minneapolis
October 9, 2012

With the release of Teen Dream in 2010, Baltimore's Beach House set the standard for what a modern pop record can accomplish, both in sound and texture. And while the arrival of Bloom earlier this year perhaps didn't raise the bar (since they set it so high to begin with), the fact that Beach House's new album matched the regal elegance of its predecessor is a testament to the consistent sonic inventiveness of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. The duo (with touring drummer Dan Franz in tow) brought their enchanting catalog of songs and an enthralling light show to a sold-out First Avenue on Tuesday night, and delivered a spellbinding 90-minute set which confirmed that they are indeed at the peak of their musical powers at the moment.

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The stage was set with four stacks of black and white slats with small fans running behind them, giving their backdrop a stylish beachside shack feel just with a more refined ambiance. The group took to the stage in near darkness, easing into the soaring majesty of opener "Wild" while shrouded in shadows and strobe lights, which only complimented the dark tones of the track. "Better Times" slowed things down a bit too much for the start of the show, but things picked back up immediately with the upbeat pulse of "Walk In The Park," which features minimal but moving arrangements that build slowly until Legrand leads the way during the track's absolutely massive chorus.

A quick "Thank you for being here tonight" from Victoria were the only words spoken during the start of the set, as the band chose to focus on mood rather than movement, atmosphere over energy, as their spiraling, polished sounds were continually augmented by the saturnine light show. Before a dynamic rendition of "Norway," Legrand took a brief moment to mention how much it meant to the band to play First Avenue, "We're very excited to be in this incredible venue with you all this evening." And, if anyone questioned whether or not she meant it, the captivating version of "Norway" that followed should have removed all doubts.

Beach House at First Avenue, 10/9/12
Beach House at First Avenue, 10/9/12
Photos By Erik Hess

The poppy bounce of "Other People" kept the strong start going, before the band unleashed the triumphant charm of "Lazuli," as the stage became covered in smoke and the fans began to spin ever so slowly, adding to the romantic pulse of the imaginative number. After such an exultant song, the set lagged just a bit, as a plodding version of "Gila" never found a spark, and even following that with the rarity "Equal Mind" (a B-side to "Lazuli" that was released on Record Store Day) didn't quite ignite the crowd, despite Scally warmly dedicating the track to all the crate diggers in the audience, "This one's for the record nerd people."

But again, the lull didn't last long, as "Silver Soul" truly took flight, filling the packed club with its simmering, insistent melody and Legrand's resonant vocals, which were pure and true all evening long. From there the set caught fire, as the textured brilliance of "The Hours" took on an added poignancy in a live setting, while "New Year" was lush and riveting, and a clear standout of the set. The crowd might have been a bit stunned by how good "New Year" was, as Victoria playfully expressed concern afterwards: "Are you OK? Speak to me--us. We've enjoyed our day here so much. I don't know what it is about this city--it's just a magical place. It's always a treat arriving in Minneapolis, and I just want you to know this is really special for us."

 

The black and white horse theme layered in the rousing chorus of "Zebra" was really magnified by the stark light show and backdrop behind the band, while the stage was bathed in a flashing rose-red light during the powerful conclusion of "Wishes," which sounded absolutely enormous on First Ave's stellar new soundsystem. Victoria then introduced a moody version of Devotion's "Turtle Island" by saying, "This is an old song from an older record," and the track built slowly toward its spirited conclusion, with Legrand's piercing vocals blending smoothly with Scally's swelling guitar riff. The main set then emphatically came to a close with "Myth," Beach House's grand sonic tour de force that sounded even more towering and inspired in a live setting.

Beach House at First Avenue, 10/9/12
Beach House at First Avenue, 10/9/12
Photos By Erik Hess

After a short break, the band returned to a rousing and well-earned ovation, with Legrand addressing their fans warmly, "Thank you to you guys very much. You have shown us a lot of love here tonight, and we're going to give everything we've got right back to you." And with that, the band eased into the breathtaking beauty of "10 Mile Stereo" as stars flickered on the backdrop, adding to the track's heavenly feel. The set closed with a dramatic rendition of "Irene," with Franz building the tension of the track with his sole, emphatic drumbeat before the number exploded as Legrand thrashed about behind her keyboard, headbanging with reckless abandon. And then, with a quick wave, the band were off, leaving us all picking our collective jaws up off the floor.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: This was the fourth time I had seen Beach House, and this was the best show of the bunch.

The Crowd: Even though it was a sold-out show, the fans all seemed to be well-behaved and there for the music, with very little distractions coming from the crowd.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I wish I could see them up there." "You don't need to see them, just listen."

Random Notebook Dump: Openers Poor Moon, featuring Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott from Fleet Foxes/Crystal Skulls, delivered an engaging 45-minute opening set which drew from the band's stellar self-titled album on Sub Pop. The quintet were charming and humorous throughout their set, joking that "I hope you guys stick around after our show and check out Beach House--they're excellent." A lovely cover of the Kinks classic "Sitting By The Riverside," which was not only a nod to their influences, but complimented their own talents as well.

Setlist:

Wild

Better Times

Walk In The Park

Norway

Other People

Lazuli

Gila

Equal Mind

Silver Soul

The Hours

On The Sea

New Year

Zebra

Wishes

Turtle Island

Myth

10 Mile Stereo (Encore)

Irene (Encore)


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