Review: ‘Beach House’

The band has honed its live show to accommodate a burgeoning fan base.

Beach House’s third album, Sub Pop release “Teen Dream,” found the group growing into a larger, more instantly accessible sonic environment, while maintaining the reverb-laden trappings of its earlier output. A band whose calling card was musical restraint opened up its sound, and in a modest way, swung for the fences. With the added help of landing a major-venue tour supporting Vampire Weekend last year, the group is currently enjoying a wave of substantial commercial success as a result. Both Wednesday and Thursday night at Hollywood’s Music Box were sold out months ago, and the band has honed its live show to accommodate a burgeoning fan base.

The concert opened with “Gila,” the quintessence of the group’s earlier material, with its slow, plodding analog drum machine, slide-picked electric guitar refrain and haunted bed of organ. The stage was ornamented by three large, illuminated pyramids, which lit up in various shades of neon and pastel. After the tune’s musical intro, singer Victoria Legrand’s deep, reverbed vocals cut through the concert hall and rose starkly through the mix. Her skills as a performer and singer have improved notably over the past couple of years and her voice instantly drew the audience in and held them in a sort of blissed-out state of rapture throughout the show. The addition of opener Papercuts’ drummer Graham Hill to the live lineup has also added a great deal of intensity and dynamic variability to the duo’s sound.

After teasing the audience with older material, Beach House launched into a string of “Teen Dream” songs highlighted by a majestic reading of “Norway,” in which the back of the stage lit up with a stunning white, star-like display of lights. The light show was beautiful and austere, elegantly designed to engage with each subtle shift in mood and tone. “Walk In The Park,” arguably the group’s most accessible song to date, also achieved a similarly transcendent communion with the audience.

Beach House’s power lays in its restraint, and desire to avoid easy emotive musical tools. Where a song like “Walk In The Park” could easily be likened to a Coldplay tune, with its simple “In My Place”-sounding guitar refrain and high-register chorus, the band tactfully chooses not to go to that place of pure, emotion-based arranging. In the live setting, Hill’s drums and guitarist Alex Scally’s rapidly strummed guitar sounded downright austere. Even at the emotional peaks, the group kept everything in check, only allowing the essential components to remain.

The performance was refreshingly brief, lasting a perfectly-timed hour and fifteen minutes, which found the band playing through many of its best-loved tracks including “Zebra,” “Heart Of Chambers,” “Take Care” and “Silver Soul.” The blend of Beach House’s otherworldly brand of hauntological pop and the evocative light show made for an entirely intimate and engaging environment.

Opening act Papercuts played an elegant, albeit entirely too-brief, set of subdued folk-pop songs. The band ornamented its consistently stellar songwriting with engaging and nuanced full-group arrangements.

Beach House

The Music Box; 1,300 capacity; $22 top


Presented by KCRW and Goldenvoice. Performers: Victoria Legrand, Alex Scally, Graham Hill Also appearing: Papercuts Reviewed: Feb. 17, 2011
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