On a dark, wet and windy evening in Manchester, the idea of a Beach House in any form was a wonderful image; be it sat on the Hawaiian sand listening to the waves ride the shore, or a more likely scenario of Baltimore duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally playing their sensational dream-pop ballads in front of a sold-out Manchester crowd.
Their most-recent release – album Bloom – was met with mixed reactions earlier this year, some declaring it to be their best record yet, other stating that it was a step back following the outstanding Teen Dream in 2010. This may have been playing on their minds as they wrote their setlist, choosing to perform seven tracks from Bloom, seven tracks from Teen Dream and just two tracks from their first two records, Devotion (2009) and Beach House (2006).
The stage was set like an industrial factory, with huge fans turning behind metal grates. The idea of the fans worked fantastically however, as the lights shone behind and altered direction to cast shapes all over the old ballroom. The band, joined by drummer Daniel Franz, stayed chiefly in shadow, with Legrand taking her place near the back of the stage, head peeping over her keyboard, whilst Scally remained seated on a stool for large parts of the show, except for moments where he thrusted himself into the music and moved around his little area, almost uncontrollably – a good sign for any musician.
The set kicked off with Wild, second track on the new album and possibly second-best track on it as well. From start to finish, Beach House were flawless in their deliverance of their beautifully atmospheric melodies, accompanied by rolling drums and anthemic guitar lines. Wild brought all these together straight away and set a high precedent for the remainder of the show. The three-piece then hurtled into Teen Dream favourites Norway and Walk In The Park, before heading back to Bloom and cracking on with Other People and the utterly brilliant Lazuli – if one was to make a playlist of their last two albums alone, this would have been the perfect start.
Legrand’s husky and smoky tones, matched with Scally’s underlining deep harmonies made for stunning listening, particularly on songs such as Lazuli and Gila – the only track to be played from album Devotion. However their were times when something was missing, particularly in this middle section where they briefly headed into their back catalogue. This is not to say that this move was not welcomed, as I was more than pleased that they had thrown some older tunes into the setlist, particularly Beach House‘s Master Of None. It was just that the crowd seemed to go into a lull, which is never a good thing at The Ritz as this venue seems to echo the unwelcomed sounds of the bored and talkative.
It took a glorious rendition of Silver Soul to get the audience back, which was then followed by a host of beauties, including The Hours, Norway, Zebra and Take Care. All of which are from the latest two albums, but were obviously arranged in order to keep the audience cheering and smiling for a good half hour before new album-opener Myth brought the set to a triumphant close. Beach House’s only downfall came when they were forced to do a little onstage banter. They clearly seem like the band that want to let their music do the talking, and on occasion, their attempts to converse with the crowd were a little lacklustre; especially when Legrand thanked the crowd for coming out on Halloween and asked if anyone cared that they were missing it – which was met with a couple of grumbles, a ‘No!’ here and there and a particularly loud fella who stated ‘No! It’s a stupid American thing!’, much like my own father would say!
An encore then ensued, made up of Teen Dream‘s 10 Mile Stereo and Bloom-closer, the 7-minute Irene. The latter was a slightly colourless and limp end to the show, but didn’t take much away from what was, on the whole, a rather excellent set. All shows are about the music, and one cannot fault these three musicians in any shape or form – they were pretty much flawless. But perhaps we can hope that they bring a little more character to their recently-announced March gigs when they return to the UK, just as a little bonus!