The Metro, Chicago, IL • April 2nd
There’s something mysterious and wonderful about the music of Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House. The first time I saw them live, when they opened for Clientele in 2007, I was instantly drawn in by the provocative mix of Victoria Legrand’s operatic, hypnotically soothing vocals and her soul-stirring organ playing and Alex Scally’s folky fusion of indie-rock guitar and electronic sampling.
Touring in support of their latest release Teen Dream, they came to the Metro and put on a show that was subversively soothing. And somehow, by the end of the set, they got the crowd pondering the possibility that their music could be a soundtrack or the sonic impetus for Springtime baby-making.
On this third album, Beach House has evolved their cerebral melodies and psychedelic rhythms by sprinkling their new songs with just the right amount of pop. The lead single “Zebra,” and the lonesome touring ballad “Used to Be,” deviate wonderfully from the usual low-tempo Beach House tunes, giving you a catchy and addictive rhythm to bob your head and tap your feet to. During the show, I could tell that I wasn’t the only one looking forward to experiencing those tracks live because an electrifying buzz flowed through the venue as those songs unfolded and the sold-out crowd closed their eyes and grinned a unified expression of deep transcendent pleasure. It was as if we were all one big satisfied organism floating in the air and feeding off the surreal satisfaction of hearing the songs we hoped to hear.
Gradually the show blossomed into a beautiful mid-tempo netherworld teeming with Legrand’s long note swells and evocative shrieks and purring organ hums. With each passing song, she released palpable sensations of love, pain, and heartache on the crowd, while Scally sat on his chair strumming, plucking, and pushing shoe-gazed rhythms and bluesy indie-rock melodies from his guitar and beat machine. And the addition of a live drummer, making Beach House a trio for the night, gave the performance a soulfully organic groove.
Low light and only a single row of technicolored floor lights cast a mysterious shadow on Legrand, making her look like a multicolored mad scientist. And even though Legrand hid behind long bangs that kept her face and eyes hidden, her slow-motion body thrashes and emotive headbanging were the window to the band’s heart and soul.
“This is our last song…because you guys have a lot of babies to go make,” Legrand said as they headed into their final number. It was one of the most interestingly awkward and clever comments I’ve heard an artist make during a concert. And it evoked a ripple of chuckles from the crowd. And I’m still not exactly sure why we all laughed. Maybe it was because it wasn’t something you’d expect to hear a rock concert? Maybe it was because her comment surprisingly struck a chord of innocence and sensuality that we feel in their music but didn’t know it until she suggested that we go make babies?
I won’t tell you if I embarked on any baby-making that night, but I will tell you that my mind was pregnant with thoughts of how Beach House has taken their live show to a new level of mystique and wonder. And like the rest of the crowd, I floated out of the venue into the warm spring night waiting to see what the duo will do next.
Beach House: www.beachhousebaltimore.com