Following a short but electrifying set from Jana Hunter (thank God for American weird folk music), Beach House took the stage for a scrappy opening to -Gila’, thanks to Alex Skully’s guitar slowly sliding out of tune. Indeed, the entire gig was bedevilled with mic feedback and instrument problems and there seemed to be a general air of fatigue in the voice of Victoria Legrand. A lot of her between-song chat seemed to bear this out: ‘This is the best night of our worst tour and Dublin was the best night of our first tour’. That said, once Legrand opened her mouth and began to sing, the sheer love and regard of the band’s fans seemed to infuse her and her band with a new and more intense energy.
The harmonies between Victoria and Alex on -Tokyo Witch’ and -Heart Of Chambers’ were simply mesmerising, the voices wrapped around the audience like an old lover’s ghost coming to tell them truths about their inner selves. The sense of gratitude for being in the presence of such sublime singing was overpowering. The effortless use of her lower register could give the impression that the throaty, lived-in and atmospheric area was where Legrand was most comfortable, following in the footsteps of greats like Marianne Faithfull, Edith Piaf, Ewa Demaczyck, Ute Lemper and Lotte Lenya. But then, songs like -Used To Be’ and -Wedding Bell’ belie all that, using a series of looped vocal harmonies, low bass organ motifs and an almost cheesy metronomic drum machine effect.
At one point, Victoria asked for the spots to be dimmed, bringing an even deeper sense of intimacy to the whole performance. There is a quiet joy and a passionate intensity built into every song: wistful lovers agreeing and disagreeing; love beginning, proceeding and ending in a civilised and literary manner. The song structures may give the impression of simplicity, but in reality, these are complex, carefully constructed layered sounds and harmonies so elusive that they have to be carefully listened for.
Beach House ended a deeply satisfying night with two encores, -Apple Orchard’ preceded by a quiet love song, leaving the audience feeling like their adoration had been reciprocated, with Victoria proving the fact by inviting the entire audience back to her room post-gig. Hopefully, the next time they hit these shores, it’ll be the best gig of their best tour ever, for their sake and for our’s.
Whelan’s, Thursday 27th of November 2008
Photo by Loreana Rushe.