Reviewed on Wednesday February 3 (photo by Ashley Mar)
Spools of synth, sliding guitar and breathy vocals unfurl and glide from the Opera House stage, where four figures shrouded in shadow weave together their shining soundscapes. This is Beach House, the Baltimore duo backed by bass guitar and live drums that dance to and around hazy drum machines, injecting a bizarre but beautiful double-percussion effect. The sound ripples throughout the Concert Hall, inducing a nodding, meditative state among most, while encouraging some in the upper reaches to groove along slowly as one.
Both the band’s 2015 albums, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, get a look-in, but it’s in ‘PPP’ from the former that their diamond-flecked sound is embodied to the highest degree, as their backdrop lights up like a starry night sky. This night-time emphasis is sustained throughout the set; soft blankets of synth and Victoria Legrand’s dusky vocals are a warm embrace to Alex Scally’s drifting guitar. Banter is kept minimal – as are stage lights – with the four musicians working away in near-darkness.
Their careful manipulations are infectious, punctuated by sudden shards of light and heavy, pulsating drums that cut through the otherwise wistful nature of their music and breathe a greater vibrancy and substance into their recorded work. Moments are made grittier, crunchier than expected, with distorted guitars and fuller rhythms fleshed out and made whole, before dissolving now and again to the original two-piece.
Returning for an encore, Legrand and Scally begin by paying homage to their humble beginnings with ‘Saltwater’, the first song they wrote together for their 2006 self-titled debut album. With its mired drum machine and sparkling melodies, the glitchy lullaby washes over the crowd before Beach House are back as a full band for an anything-but-dreamy finale. Gone is the light touch of the swirling, kaleidoscopic guitars and gently curling synth. All that remains from their earlier performance is Legrand’s silk-swathed vocals beneath the din of distortion, urgent synths and ferociously rolling drums, all resounding over an audience that is well and truly wide awake.