Reviewed

Beach House at the Pabst Theater

By - Apr 6th, 2010 12:40 am
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Photo courtesy CJ Foeckler @ The Pabst

Various diamond-shaped disco “balls” surrounded the stage, suspended in the air and controlled to half-rotate or slowly spin, and two decomposing garlands of metallic and multi-colored material pom-poms fell limp, stretching from the ceiling to the floor on either side of the stage. The theatre was held in darkness as well, with the exception of monochromatic, saturated wisps/pools of light, particularly highlighting Victoria Legrand’s mouth and hair, her eyes and body covered in black. At times confetti-like pieces of light covered the stage floor, and saturated beams in rainbow colors shot up from the behind the band to create a momentary luminescent background.

Like their third album, Teen Dream (and particularly, its accompanying videos), the stage setting for Beach House Saturday night at the Pabst echoed the half-remembered memory, nostalgia, and melancholia central to the album. Both presentation and music were seeped in oddly juxtaposed images, flashes of light and faces, and bits and pieces of twisted recollections. Beach House has considerably matured artistically since their self-titled album in 2006. They have mostly grown in dynamics, making fuller songs and presenting a more cohesive performance, musically and visually. I saw them on tour with Grizzly Bear at the Pabst in 2007, months before the release of their second album, Devotion. Their performance then was significantly more minimal—just the duo of Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally—Legrand’s voice quiet and subdued, and the stage sparse. No stage production and the theatre lit by the house lights only. Their performance was weary, but moving and commanding in its fearlessness of pauses and breaths. Unhurried. Their first record, Beach House, is one washed in fatigue, but also filled with flourishes possessed with hopefulness and joy—an out-of-time warble or rhythm, or drawn-out howl that falls off into nowhere and reinvents itself after the void. Beach House’s performance at the Pabst on Saturday consisted almost entirely of songs from the hazily bombastic Teen Dream, excepting a few tracks from both Devotion and their self-titled record. “Master of None,” from the latter, was remade harsher than the original version, opening with a series of shrill noise bursts from Legrand’s keyboard, which was synched in rhythm with a strand of rainbow-colored LED lights at the instrument’s base.

Their performance, especially Legrand’s, was much more dramatic this time around. She stood at center stage, select facial features pinpointed in green or magenta light, head-banging a mass of hair, and hazily engaging with the audience, who stood up after four or five songs and met the band with loud applause and I-love-yous/song requests yelled from the upper decks. Guitarist Alex Scally took the more subdued role, sitting at times and playing with his head down. Except for a command to the audience to stare up at the massive chandelier hanging over the first floor, he remained quiet and absorbed. Absent the melancholia of their last visit, they were obviously charged, happy, and, knowingly, really lucky to be playing in such a great venue (of which they commented on) and to such a receptive audience (which Legrand also commented on).

The band, and Teen Dream especially, has a special quality of entrancing their audience with or without visual bells and whistles, making them feel stoned if they aren’t already and making people slouch down in their seats, contentedly spent, or get out of them altogether. The visual production only added to the feeling. My only complaint was that the desperation of “Silver Soul, ” a stand-out track on Team Dream, was disappointedly less intense live than on record. Otherwise, the set was fleshed-out, inspired, and delivered with all the rock that such wistful slow-core can muster.

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