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Beirut

3 Dec

The Mainroom was awash in a warm glow last night, from the flickering strings of bulbs strung out to the rigging like a Parisian cafe, from the buttery and ecstatic blasts of brass and mostly, from Zach Condon’s deep, swooning singing and thanks. Beirut came to town for the first time in at least five years and Condon and his band of slightly socially awkward but well-scrubbed and aesthetically earnest collaborators made the room a welcome place for a sold out crowd to end an evening.

Playing in support of The Rip Tide, the fourth full-length under the Beirut name, the set could have been made up of the subtler tones that fill that record, but the setlist was a hearty mix of songs from across the catalog and some ringing, ebullient moments of brassiness. Opening with “Scenic World”, the atmosphere filled with a casual sexiness overlaid on the sweet melancholy of Condon’s lyrics. Moving through a couple highlights, especially “Elephant Gun”, things really got to sizzling during “Postcards from Italy”, when Kelly Pratt on the trumpet and Ben Lanz on the trombone teamed up with Condon’s french horn to give the crowd a thrilling, trilling horn breakdown that scattered across staccato high notes as the rest of the band (Perrin Cloutier on accordion, Nick Petree on drums, Paul Collins on bass) kept a swaying, lilting low end.

There were some lovely quieter moments as well; “Goshen” a standout from The Rip Tide was especially lovely, with Condon trading in the ukelele and french horn for a turn at the piano for his take on the touring life. The sweet breakdown of the bass in during “After the Curtain” added a certain funky flair to the proceedings. After coming out for a solo version of “The Penalty” to start the encore, Condon and Co. wrapped it up on a pulsing instrumental run with “The Gulag Orkestar” and “Serbian Čoček”, the latter featuring synesthetic flashes of light as Pratt and his trumpet soloed and a bouncing, cheeky tuba solo from Lenz.

The night ended then, sweetly and with thanks. Beirut is a band that fills a room not because they are wild showmen like Gogol Bordello or have the gritty weariness of DeVotchKa, but because Condon’s orchestration, and the musicians he gets to perform with him, feel like a dreamy wanderlust, a bygone courtesy and a stumbled-upon love note. Judging from the happy crowd at the end of the night, Beirut would be welcome back anytime with more than just a postcard from First Avenue.

Beirut Setlist
Scenic World
The Shrew
Elephant Gun
Vagabond
Postcards from Italy
Port of Call
Sunday Smile
Santa Fe
East Harlem
The Akara
Nantes
Cherbourg
Goshen
After the Curtain
Carousels

Encore
The Penalty
My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille
The Gulag Orkestar
Serbian Čoček

Opener Perfume Genius was a conflicted appearance – frontman Mike Hadreas seemed as if he was about to cry most of the way through the set, which, if your songs are all about confronting the suicide of lovers and addiction, might be understandable. There was something endearing about the honesty of the performance, when Hadreas declared “Fuck it,” and put down an acoustic guitar he had been trying to use for a song and sang it backed by an iPod and his keyboard player instead, you could feel his own disappointment and relief. Making no judgment about the difficulty of Hadreas’ life and whatever demons he has faced, and not withstanding that he sung sweetly at times, the set ran the danger in performance of being a toothless Xiu Xiu, awash in self-reflective sadness without enough of the survival instinct that pushed him up onstage in the first place.

 

 

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  1. A Slice of 2011 | Cake In 15 - December 26, 2011

    […] Beirut: “Beirut is a band that fills a room not because they are wild showmen like Gogol Bordello or have the gritty weariness of DeVotchKa, but because Condon’s orchestration, and the musicians he gets to perform with him, feel like a dreamy wanderlust, a bygone courtesy and a stumbled-upon love note.” […]

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