Beirut, Albert Hall, Manchester, gig review: 'Evokes a nostalgic atmosphere of old Europe'

Live proof of still untapped musical pleasure ahead

Jonathan Brown
Sunday 17 August 2014 22:00
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The teetotal non-conformists that once packed the balconies of Manchester’s Albert Hall might have had a sneaking admiration for Zach Condon’s high-minded musicality.

They would certainly have shared his penchant for brass even if his tastes owe more to the Balkans than the Black Dyke.

Beirut lived up to this extraordinary setting, taking time out to praise the majesty of their Neo-Gothic surroundings on their first European date in a year.

Armed with tuba, trombone, trumpet, accordion and ukulele to accompany conventional drums, keyboards and bass, they used the atmosphere to fine effect showcasing a wide range of moods, tempos and styles.

Fears that a touch of brass can, in the wrong hands, go a long-way, are quickly soothed as a devoted audience responded enthusiastically to tracks such as "Postcards from Italy" and later "Elephant Gun".

If at first it felt a little like a cerebral exercise in musical appreciation rather than a joyous outpouring of love this was remedied in the second half of the set when the band shifted to a more upbeat realm.

Condon’s voice, sometimes quavering, sometimes mannered and Morrissey-esque, evokes a nostalgic atmosphere of old Europe.

At the encore after much thumping and shouting – alone with his ukulele on stage – there was little doubt he commands the total approval of those before him.

For newcomers to this band this is that most pleasing of things - live proof of still untapped musical pleasure ahead.

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