It was hot and muggy in New York when Beach House took Central Park’s SummerStage on Monday evening. The Baltimore-based duo’s lush and inviting pop can invoke a hazy dream-world of warmth and, yes, the beach: so when the skies started to thunder and flash early on in the set and cool rain started coming down, the crowd suddenly found itself within a heavenly mismatch of awesome forces.
The band has been touring extensively since early May in support of this spring’s Bloom, an album that sharpens and expands on the sonic realization the band found on 2010’s breakthrough Teen Dream. Monday night, singer-organist Victoria Legrand, guitarist Alex Scally and drummer Daniel Franz (who contributed to percussion on Bloom) played mostly songs from those two albums. They performed only two pre-Teen Dream tracks, both from 2008’s Devotion. During “Gila,” — the sixth out of eighteen songs played — massive and rapid flashes of lightning travelled across the still-lit sky, distracting the crowd. Cheers, oohs and chatter filled up the soundspace for the rest of the song. On next track “Used to Be,” from Teen Dream, it started to rain.
“We’re not gonna let this storm win!” Legrand said, sensing her competition from Mother Nature.
Beach House’s “Gila” (the iTunes session recording)
But there never was any real competition. Some umbrellas popped up and the occasional fantastic lightning bolt diverted attention, but the audience embraced the light rain and the summer storm added a communal, sublime excitability. Everyone was there to stay.
Beach House’s beginnings saw only the use of a built-in drum kit from Legrand’s Yamaha keyboard, which gives their earlier material a sleepy, somewhat monotonous vibe. The development of their percussion distinguishes Bloom and Teen Dream; Monday night, booming and crisp drums carried the music well. Their use of guitar is technically simple, revolving around three or four notes each song, and has the magic of perfect pop simplicity. Scally played with incredible precision. He was totally attentive to Legrand the whole show: he always had an eye on her. The most onstage action from the players came from an occasional headbanging from Legrand, like she did during “Myth.” Legrand also provided the only true variation from the studio versions of the songs, letting loose as a vocalist. She hit impressive notes and changed things up; she was wonderfully imperfect.
Legrand captured the feeling of the night. “Is everyone safe out there?” she asked — the endearing protectress. “Nobody be afraid of the skies.” Later Teen Dream’s “Take Care” felt like another protective call to the audience, not a love song. After it, she made an enthusiastic cry: “Thanks to all of you for being wet. And thanks to all the things music and Mother Nature does to us!” On final song “Irene” from Bloom when Legrand sang the refrain “It’s a strange paradise,” the words rang impossibly true, the audience caught in a musical and atmospheric daze, liberated by the impossible combinations of the night.
Beach House’s performance at SummerStage was their last in the U.S. before they head to Europe and the U.K.; the last leg of the stateside tour takes place September through October.
Written by Megan Conway
OurVinyl | Contributor
(feature picture from http://koolaidmonster.tumblr.com/)