Beach House at Vicar Street, Dublin, Sunday, 25 October 2015
They’ve been around for the best part of a decade, but even still, Beach House are very much a band of the moment. It probably has something to with the year they’ve been having. One lauded full-length album, ‘Depression Cherry’, dropped at the end of August, and its melodies had hardly become stuck in the world’s heads before a second one came hot on its heels. ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’ was released less than two weeks ago, and the group’s current tour has been extended to facilitate its introduction to the group’s repertoire.
The American duo wouldn’t have needed a second new album to fill Vicar Street to capacity on Sunday. Seeing the crowd, you feel Beach House could have been silent all year and the place would still have been absolutely jammed.
Backed by three box-shaped curtain installations, surrounded by lighting equipment that contributed to the visual haze, Beach House and their backing musicians let themselves get lost in the dream. Opening with Levitation, they float through a set laden with their most recent releases, with frequent, effectual nods to their last ten years of work. ‘Depression Cherry’ is utilised the most often, and provides a number of the highlights. PPP in particular is transcendent, a perfectly weighted summation of all the band have come to represent and achieve. Majorette is the highlight of the new new album, and works accordingly in a live setting.
By the time they finish with an encore featuring Saltwater, (“the first song we ever wrote”), and Sparks – which sets off a final maelstrom of flashing lights and noise – any doubters have been converted. A low level of talking, which seems to plague a few of the group’s shows, interrupts the continuity of the experience, but ultimately, who is losing out?
Throughout most of this, the group appear to the audience through a filter of simple but beautiful lights. At times, they are swathed in a blanket of verdant green, at others as if privy to the first rays of sunrise. The occasional trope of having the backdrop light up with a tapestry of stars avoids the accusation of being clichéd. The band could have been in a different room, or appearing from behind a glass screen, and it would have had the same otherworldly effect.
This could be because Beach House shows sometimes feel a bit different. Such is the ambient intensity of their music, the flickering, ephemeral dreamscape quality of it all, that the idea of the gig as a collective experience could nearly be discarded. You let it all wash over you, close your eyes if you want to, and allow yourself get lost in the music with the band, in the cosy confines of your own head. There is little in the way of singing along or dancing, if only because it never feels particularly necessary.
To call the gig as a whole perfect or transcendent would, as always, be getting ahead of ourselves. Victoria Legrand’s voice seems a little off at times, for example during Space Song, where it has a hard time gelling with the slide guitar at the centre of the track. As a general rule, however, the show deals in bigger brush-strokes than can be encapsulated in a single tune. Stepping back, the whole thing is a beauty to hear and see.