Guest writer Chris Lings went to see Beach House on Monday night. Here’s what he thought of them.
It’s a bitterly cold Monday in London. Winter’s been out drinking and now it’s passed out in our living room, refusing to move and long over staying its welcome. And after a 20 minute walk down Holland Park Avenue, there’s little rest bite from the chill to be found in the Empire either. Still, at least the £5 pints will stay nice and cool; swings and roundabouts and all that.
Charged with the task of thawing the frozen crowd, support artist Marques Toliver is dispatched to centre stage an hour or so after the doors open. Armed simply with his violin, a loop pedal, one microphone and a sharp suit, he does a decent job of grabbing the public’s attention, building plucked arpeggios upon layers of harmonised violin strokes before topping the sound off with a soulful, if not quite spectacular voice. An endearing and charming guy, it’s pleasant enough stuff and certainly makes a nice change to see a loop pedal being used by someone other than a whinging gap year student slapping their guitar around, but a lack of variety in an admittedly fledgling body of songs leaves the trick feeling a little stale by the end of the set.
At this point in proceedings the crowd has swelled to it’s sold out billing and venue workers are militantly ushering any stair dwellers further into the mass of bodies. Excitement grows when an intriguingly minimal stage set is revealed from behind a black screen and shortly after, the familiar sound of a wheezing drum machine begins. The propulsive drum beat of ‘Wild’ accompanies Beach House taking to the stage and a reverb drenched guitar and organ ring through the building.
From here, the evening becomes a master class in performing gracious, ethereal pop music with the band choosing to provide the audience a constant yet dynamic blanket of sound rather than engage in any cliché stage hi jinks and banter. The moodiness and mystique Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally project in a live set may not be suitable for many bands but it works perfectly tonight with the shimmering beauty of their music and all the while a gorgeously understated light show casts the band in a near permanent shadow while simultaneously basking the rest of the venue in deep reds, blues and yellows *.
As the set rolls on, the atmosphere becomes almost tangible and what were once cold, rigid figures in front of the stage are now gloriously heart warmed humans. To the left an intimidating man wearing an Adidas jacket complete with faux bullet holes claps joyously along to ‘Norway’. Later, to the right, a young woman nestles her head lovingly on her girlfriend’s shoulder as Legrand croons along to ‘Take Care’. The stair Nazis have even given up their policing and are swaying along too. It’s no surprise when the encore becomes a mere formality.
And when it comes it’s beautiful. ‘Apple Orchard’ is followed by a double hit of ’10 Mile Stereo’ and ‘Irene’ and by this point even the band have let their icy cool demeanour slip. During ‘Irene’s’ climax, drummer Daniel Franz ends the show by furiously battering his cymbals. Victoria Legrand hollers and wails with little to no control. Alex Scally stands up! The music and lights reach unchartered intensity before the cacophony finally falls in upon itself and just like that, it’s all over. The band disappears into a black stage and the crowd, now fully illuminated, gather their breath and cheer rapturously.
It’s been a glorious evening but now it’s time to contemplate the cold journey home.
*This was also picked up on by members of Wild Beasts who, presumably having attended the show, tweeted Beach House the next morning in some sort of social media headhunting, asking who was responsible for the fantastic lighting. Bear that in mind for their next tour.