Nobody will ever mistake a Beach House concert for an Iggy & the Stooges gig, or even Siouxsie & the Banshees. Tuesday’s sold out concert at First Avenue by the rainy-day Baltimore synth-pop duo involved about as much physical movement as a senior-center staging of “Love Letters,” and the music itself was often still and static. If anybody in Tuesday’s crowd broke a sweat, it was because they over-eagerly pulled a wool sweater out of the closet and wore it to the club. Had the band opted instead to perform at a theater – which it very well could do at this point in its blooming career – some of the audience members undoubtedly would’ve nodded off asleep in their seats.
None of this is to put a negative spin on the show. Beach House captivated in other, more subtle ways over the course of its 100-minute set -- more the equivalent of a calm, mesmerizing night of stargazing instead of the meteor shower that most First Ave shows try to be. And it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the brightest star in sight, either: Singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand’s willowy, ethereal, icily passionate voice.
While some might quibble about the group’s light-to-medium use of pre-recorded tracks to round out its sound, Legrand’s vocals came through the speakers au natural and resonated as magically from the stage as they do on record. There simply aren’t many more voices as bewitching as hers in indie-rock right now. Her delivery of “Over the Sea” three-quarters into the show – in which the waterfall of synths was stripped to a trickle of piano – was reminiscent of Annie Lennox delivering “Why.” She also absolutely nailed the rising-tide flow of this year’s breakout single “Myth,” which the band saved for its pre-encore finale.
Tuesday’s set list alternated pretty randomly between the three most recent (of four) Beach House albums, starting with another highlight from the new “Bloom” album, “Wild,” followed by two from 2010’s “Teen Dream” (the lilting “Better Times” and the organ-spiked “Walk in the Park”). The first stellar moment of the concert came six songs in with “Lazuli,” which is also when the theretofore shadowy stage lights started to creep up more to match the match the song’s candescent, swirly tone. Legrand’s partner, Alex Scally, then introduced the grade-A “Lazuli” B-side “Equal Mind” by saying, “This one’s for the record-nerd people” (the track was given out on Record Store Day). Legrand also talked a few times, repeatedly expressing her love for First Ave and weirdly adding at one point, “You never know, this might be the last time we play” – the point of which, I think (hope), was to say it’d be fine place for a finale.
Scally mostly stayed in the shadows but did come to the forefront musically with his neo-twangy parts in “Gila” and some atmospheric slide-guitar work in “Turtle Island.” The band was rounded out by touring drummer Daniel Franz, who added a little oomph the heartbeat-pulse of “The Hours” and the clopping gallop of “Zebra.” The pace of the show did noticeably lag here and there, especially during “Silver Soul” and “Wishes” (a shorter set without them simply might’ve been better). About the only time things really got “rocking” was at the start of the encore for “10 Mile Stereo,” in which Legrand tossed her long hair around like she was suddenly Alanis Morissette doing “You Oughta Know.” However, Legrand just as quickly returned to just standing there coolly behind her keyboards singing like a siren stuck on a rock in the middle of the barren sea during the mellower closer “Irene.” That was definitely more her thing -- and better for us, too.