Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
Beach House at The Kool Haus in Toronto
Frank YangA little into Beach House’s show at the Kool Haus on Saturday night, Victoria Legrand mentioned that this was their twelfth time playing Toronto. And while I was glad she’d saved me the trouble of trying to assemble their 416 gigography, I was surprised that they’d been through so many times in the past six years, since I’m pretty sure the first was in November 2006 when they played to a dozen or so people in the front room of the Tranzac. I hadn’t personally caught any of the subsequent ten shows, but have followed them around the world – Austin, Chicago, and Reykjavik – so they’ve hardly been off my radar. Just not on the local scale.
In any case, checking back in with Beach House in Toronto with some 2000 others revealed a band that had somehow managed to grow and evolve without seemingly changing at all. Which is to say that if you were to compare their latest, the rather exquisite Bloom, with their self-titled debut, there’d be no arguing it’s the same band – the balance of Victoria Legrand’s smoky voice, whirring keyboards and Alex Scally’s slippery slide guitar remains as it ever was, as does their deliberately slow and hazy sonic aesthetic – but there’s also no denying that it’s an exponentially more creative and interesting Beach House that operates circa 2012, one that gleams through the mist. Truly, they’re an example of a band taking the few elements that define what they are and completely mastering them.
The same can also be said for their live show. Early on, there wasn’t much disputing that they were a… understated pair of performers, the best way to experience their shows being to close your eyes and drift away – that’s certainly what they did. Along the way, though, they’d made some tweaks – most notably trading in their rickety drum loops and machines for real-live sticksman Dan Franz – and learned how to become a compelling, if still unconventional, live act. This isn’t something I’d have expected to say a year prior (to the day, actually) when I saw them – or more accurately their silhouettes – as their entire Iceland Airwaves set was doused in smoke and terribly backlighting but for this tour, which they dubbed the “Frightened Eyes” tour, they had wisely prepared something for the eyes to focus on.
With Scally seated stage right, Legrand set back a bit in centre, and Franz stage left, they set up in almost a straight line in front of some horizontally-striped wall panels. These on occasion shone lights out onto the audience but more often gave something for the stage lights to project against for simple but striking visual effects. On paper it doesn’t sound like much – and even to see it it wasn’t much – but like Beach House’s aesthetic, the simplicity of it and the lighting design in general was perfectly matched to the music and it just worked. And though it would have been easy enough to leverage their visual presence for an air of mystery, Legrand was actually rather chatty, at various points giving a shout out to local music shop Paul’s Boutique as a great place to buy a keyboard, running down the band’s history of performances in the city, and while happy to be playing their largest headline show to date, declared prior to “Silver Soul” that they wanted it to feel nice and intimate – or more precisely, “tight and hot”.
For all of this, though, it would be the music and music alone that people left talking about. Almost the entire set drew from either Teen Dream or Bloom, with only a couple nods to Devotion, and as good as it was to hear them touring behind their breakout record last year, the difference of having two albums of superb, dynamic pop to work with can’t be overstated. From the opening beat of “Wild” breaking into Scally’s chiming guitar and then being given form and focus by Legrand’s breathy, wholly enveloping voice, they were able to lift off and not come close to touching the ground for the duration of the show. It’s funny – airborne metaphors would have been the last thing I’d expect to use to describe Beach House at that first show, but in their finest moments – of which there were many on this night – they simply soared.
Photos: Beach House @ The Kool Haus – October 13, 2012
MP3: Beach House – “Lazuli”
MP3: Beach House – “Myth”
MP3: Beach House – “I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun”
MP3: Beach House – “Zebra”
MP3: Beach House – “Norway”
MP3: Beach House – “Gila”
MP3: Beach House – “Heart Of Chamber”
MP3: Beach House – “Master Of None”
Video: Beach House – “Lazuli”
Video: Beach House – “Zebra”
Video: Beach House – “Lover Of Mine”
Video: Beach House – “Walk In The Park”
Video: Beach House – “Silver Soul”
Video: Beach House – “Used To Be”
Video: Beach House – “You Came To Me”
Video: Beach House – “Heart Of Chambers”
Titus Andronicus have released one of those newfangled “lyric videos” for the second single from their new one Local Business. Which is great if you want to learn the words to sing along whilst moshing when they roll into Lee’s Palace on November 27, but if you just want to hear the new songs, you’re probably better off just hitting the NPR stream of the album. It’s out next week.
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus”
Lyric Video: Titus Andronicus – “Still Life with Hot Deuce and Silver Platter”
Stream: Titus Andronicus / Local Business