Beach House Storms the Moody
Neo-gothic atmospherics come on like a hurricane
By Abby Johnston,
12:02PM, Wed. Aug. 1, 2018
A seemingly impenetrable wall of people packed the floor of ACL Live at the Moody Theater on Tuesday, standing-room-only sections of the mezzanine and the balcony sardined at all junctures. The venue, long sold-out, appeared ready to burst not just with humanity, but from a buzz of anticipation for dream-pop mainstay Beach House.
Over seven years and as many albums, the Baltimore duo has built up an almost cult-like following that shows up en masse for its live performances. Consider that a major feat for such a simple set-up: singer Victoria LeGrand stands nearly immobile at the keyboard, her hands pounding away on an instrument that most of the audience must simply trust is actually there, and guitarist Alex Scully wends over his axe, not showboating like a guitar god, but subtly constructing pedal-fuzzed soundscapes. Aside from the subtle choreography of lighting effects, there isn’t much to take in.
And yet, Tuesday evening’s 90-minute set came off darker, stormier. Beach House, in its best moments, felt besieged by a hurricane.
James Barone, who signed on as a touring and studio drummer in 2016, sat at the eye of it. Percussive flourishes rumbled early set additions such as “Wild” to life, willing the song out of its synthy trance and adding much needed depth to tunes like encore-closer “Dive,” which before Barone’s punctuation threatened to lull the crowd into hypnosis before sending it back out into the world.
The trio delivered on gently loping, well-loved hits such as “10 Mile Stereo” and “Walk in the Park,” which swirled as ambient and entrancing as ever. The storm’s true force, however, came from the profusion of material from May’s 7. New material crashed alongside those staples, adding a gothy, Cure-at-its-darkest vibe. “Girl of the Year” erupted with Scully’s beat-up guitar effects, eclipsing LeGrand’s chords and smoky vocals, and spinning it into a furor that felt angry rather than the duo’s signature moody. LeGrand wielded a guitar for “Lemon Glow,” melding and thrashing along with Scully’s adept fret runs as a steady surge of light and sound built enough to raise arm hairs.
Nearing a decade of touring, Beach House managed to make itself feel fresh, even if that means injecting a sense of menace.
“Have you ever been inside of a rainbow?” asked LeGrand halfway through the set. “This is what being inside of a rainbow feels like.”
Rainbows, after all, occur after storms.