Beach House... about 2 years ago. Still one of the most memorable, great shows I've even seen/heard/witnessed. (Granted my writing skills have hopefully improved since then...)
Beach House, The Grog Shop, Cleveland, Ohio
One man and one woman. One guitar and one organ. One hell of an experience. Baltimore’s Beach House is Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, but if you closed your eyes while listening to their music, you’d never guess that such a rich, all-consuming sound was coming from just the two of them. They make music that is trance-enducing. Each song is gently tuneful, yet heavy in the sense that its magnificence weighs you down.
They travel light, the two of them, creating a full atmosphere with as few physical bodies as possible. Dressed in all white, they glide onto the stage. Legrand is in a silky shirt with gemstones and sequins and a large crystal pendant around her neck. Scally is impeccably dressed in a white suit, white shoes, and, just to throw us off a little, black socks. When the tiny blue lights are flipped on, the stage is illuminated by what seems like a slow-moving disco ball. The whole effect makes you feel like you are underwater.
As the duo start playing, the whole audience is suspended under the water, floating around in the splendor of their sound waves. The set begins with “Wedding Bells,” a track off their newly released Devotion. Pre-programmed organ beats recorded on a four-track are layered beneath Scally’s smoothly sweet guitar playing and Legrand’s vocals and reverb-infused organ playing. Jason Robert Quever of Papercuts, the opening band, joins the two on stage during “Gila,” and stays from then on to contribute additional drumming.
Legrand’s classical voice training is evident in the liquidy notes that escape her mouth. Each note seems to come from somewhere deeper than the vocal chords; as they flow into the crowd, you can feel your body warming. Every once in a while, a note is a little off key, or she strains herself and sounds a little gruff. But the imperfections show us that flaws are part of what makes this music beautiful. Sometimes she grows impatient with the song (or with some kind of inner struggle), and she shakes her head around and swoops aggressively over the organ.
In “Master of None,” Legrand defiantly croons, “I cry all the time ‘cause I’m not having fun.” She is so passionate, you believe she might just burst into tears. Meanwhile, Scally pulls out his slide, and looks as calm as ever. He rarely looks up from his guitar, except when he’s singing the higher harmonies to Legrand’s melodies. He’s content and in a haze, like much of the crowd. Everyone is in a dream-like state, mesmerized by the hypnotizing beauty of songs off Devotion and their self-titled debut album, like “Tokyo Witch” and “Apple Orchard.”
An eerie alien echo is continually released from the organ. It’s creepy how Beach House’s music can be so calming and soothing but, at the same time, startling. When the notes fly out from Scally and Legrand’s fingers and throats, the process seems innate and natural.
When you see Beach House live, do not go to watch two musicians play their instruments. The performance is much more than that. A Beach House show is an experience – one of entire submittal to music. Your body is submerged in it, your soul is covered with it, and your mind is wrapped up in it. The power of two simple musicians cannot be denied. Not after experiencing Beach House.