After waiting through four songs before greeting the crowd Tuesday night at First Avenue, Beach House singer Victoria Legrand’s first message was actually a request to the production crew: “Don’t turn the [stage] lights up, please. I like it dark.”
No kidding. The lights had been kept entirely to a faint, mood-setting glow up to that point, and the stage would remain vampiric for the duration of the 80-minute performance. Low lighting has always been a trademark of Beach House’s live shows, but the ambient, slow-burning Baltimore duo – a quartet on tour – did brighten the stage up enough to see the band members’ faces their last time at First Ave in 2012.
Legrand and her chief collaborator, guitarist Alex Scally, are bigger stars now, more in demand for the limelight. They sold out Wednesday’s First Ave gig quickly and added Tuesday’s concert as a result (just short of a second sell-out). Once she got her lighting instructions out there, Legrand then made it clear why they didn’t just pull a one-nighter at a larger theater instead: “We’re very happy to be here,” she said. “We’ve been here several times now and love this place.”
The faceless quality to the show served a purpose of keeping fans in a mellow zone and getting them attuned to the hypnotic qualities of their rhythmically plodding, melodically blossoming songs. With or without an actual spotlight, though, there was no question the spotlight was on Legrand. Vocally speaking, she did not shy away from showing off her magnetism.
The concert was a bit ragtag at first, as the opener “Levitation” – also the first track on the new album “Depression Cherry” -- sounded more like a sound-check workout, and the heartbeat-y “Lazuli” never found a pulse. “Wild,” sandwiched between them, was nail-tight and electrifying, however. So was the more experimental new song that soon followed, “PPP,” which built into a stormy finish with Legrand stretching her pipes to an impressive, soaring limit – her high notes carrying a low, Cat Power/Chan Marshall-like meatiness to them.
Legrand would reach that limit in several more tunes, including “Heart of Chambers” and the fan-loved oldie “Zebra.” Drummer Graham Hill also made his presence well-known in “Zebra” and many other songs, as he artfully rolled his mallets across his kit and tastefully added staticky cymbals here and there. He's a key reason why the band's charmingly sleepy albums are able to stand up in concert.
Hill also played a heavy role in the lengthy encore offering, “10 Mile Stereo,” which climaxed into a rib-cage-rattling, manic vibration like something out of a My Bloody Valentine concert. The stage lights finally turned up before the end of the show, too -- but it may have just been the club playing it safe to make sure those spotlight-averse soft-rock stars don't slip and break something before Night 2.
Here’s the set list from Night 1:
Levitation / Wild / Lazuli / Walk in the Park / PPP / Gila / Silver Soul / Wishes / Wildflower / Zebra / Heart of Chambers / Space Song / Myth / Sparks ENCORE: 10 Mile Stereo