Dream pop duo Beach House are covered in smoke and coloured light, reduced to mere silhouettes on the stage. Victoria Legrand’s big, shaggy hair is the only discernable feature as she bobs and whispers. She is sometimes heard, sometimes obscured by Alex Scally’s rippling, dreamy guitar chords.
The Baltimore band have been quietly building a following for eight years and are now onto their fourth album, Bloom, a 1980’s psychedelic pop-inspired album. Listening at home, their tracks wash over you with vivid intensity, the synthy keyboards, reverberating guitar and Legrand’s seductive voice all work beautifully, but live, the subtlety is lost and each song seems to bleed into the next. It’s still enjoyable, but the dreamy sound becomes worryingly soporific.
“Zebra”, with it’s slight shift in pace, subtle harmonies, nice twangy guitar and soaring keyboards briefly rouses the crowd from impending catatonia, while “Used to Be,” a hypnotic, nostalgic tune about looking back over a relationship, where Legrand’s voice fuses eerily with the keyboards, loses a lot of its power from the indistinct lyrics and receives only muted applause.
The band’s attitude to a live performance doesn’t help to revive the atmosphere. It feels like we’re watching through a two-way mirror, and they are still in the recording studio. Legrand’s mechanical, “Thank you for being with us. How very lovely to have you here,” feels as though someone has told her to say it to be polite, like an unwilling child ordered to make up after a playground spat.
It gets worse. “On the Sea,” a beautiful, subtle lullaby, evocative of waves gently rolling across a beach, begins well, “out on the sea we’d be forgiven” simpers Legrand, her velvety voice washing over us, then, “oh, sorry that was a flake out.”
The music stops abruptly and Legrand strides over to Scally. The lovely trance cast over the crowd is broken. The pair appear to be having an argument, on stage, in the middle of a gig. She whacks him on the shoulder, they dispute something, then they seem to resolve the issue and begin the song again.
It’s the most lively they’ve been all through the set, it’s a pity they couldn’t direct a bit more of that energy into the actual performance.
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