Any music fan knows the best way to experience a music act is in a live setting, with superb speaker sound, surrounded by fellow fans of the band you’re seeing. For this concert, we had the treat of seeing one of my favorite bands live, Beach House, and it was an outstanding experience.
Beach House is a musical duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, and they specialize in ambient dream pop sounds. We got to see a sold out performance of theirs at the Keller Auditorium in downtown Portland, and it surpassed any expectation we had before attending.
Music like this is hard to describe to a newcomer, but the best description I can give is it’s full of big sounds. The music is dominated by slow tempos, atmospheric keyboards, deep bass, and Legrand’s ethereal voice. Psychedelic drugs aren’t my thing, but I imagine the feelings of euphoria that result are like the soundscape created onstage by the band. Their songs typically follow a similar pattern, and to a casual listener they might all sound the same. But if given the chance they will blow you away with their stuff.
Victoria Legrand provides the vocals, keyboards, and occasional guitar. Her skill with that instrumentation is impressive, but it’s overshadowed by her behavior onstage. She frequently covers her face with her long hair, frequently punctuates the songs she plays with heavy metal style headbanging, and drifts herself around as she plays. Given she also surrounded her eyes with black makeup, it makes for a kooky stage presence. If anything though, it certainly is memorable.
She also bantered a little with the audience, which made the act more personable, and clearly the crowd was enjoying it. The show was in a sit down theater, but many were compelled to stand as they watched, and at one point even crowded around the stage to the many ushers’ frustrations. It meant for a portion of the show we couldn’t quite see the stage, but that was due to us sitting so close, and it didn’t affect our enjoyment of the music.
Alex Scally is the guitarist and back up vocalist. The dominant singer in the group is Legrand, but Scally is the unsung hero in this duo. His deeper tone complements her higher register, and his guitar work is on point. Several tunes allowed him to take the center stage and really show his talents, and reinforce the fact that this is not Legrand’s project, it is very much a dual effort. Cameras next to his guitar projected their image blown up behind him and showed his guitar work in extra detail, something you’d expect to find on a tv broadcast of a show.
Rounding out the band for the stage presentation is the drummer, James Barone. His full sound of bass and timpani-sounding percussion perfectly underscores the music playing.
Along with the musicians performances is a dynamic lighting presentation. The shades of color change as the songs progress, and kaleidoscopic visuals get displayed. Frequently the band members were highly backlit, casting memorable silhouettes of each member playing their instrument. A word of caution for anyone with epileptic symptoms, there were frequent flashes of strobe style lighting, so this may not be a show to attend if you’re susceptible to that.
If you’re a fan of Beach House already you’re familiar with their unique sound, but seeing and hearing their music in a concert setting with it reverberating through your body is a special experience. If they come to a town anywhere near you, I can’t recommend their show enough. And of course their newest album ‘7’ is out now, so you can either continue your love of them, or dive right into their discography. Click HERE to see their upcoming tour dates.
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