During Beach House’s show at Webster Hall, I overheard someone say, in a somewhat shocked voice, “The singer is wearing fishnets!” In the age of Lady Gaga, what’s the big deal? An hour before, I’d just seen club kid/designer Richie Rich wearing bright red lipstick at the opening of nearby church-turned-club-turned-shopping-center Limelight Marketplace. Then I heard the concertgoer’s moment of clarity, “What? Oh. The singer’s a woman!” While vocalist Victoria Legrand looks nothing like a man, her voice, which has drawn comparisons to Nico, has a deep, soulful timbre that apparently confused this guy somewhat familiar with the music, but not so much the band.
The majority of the crowd at the sold-out show, however, was more familiar with the dream pop Baltimore duo of Legrand and guitarist and keyboardist Alex Scally. From the opening notes of “Walk in the Park,” a flowing tune with keyboard sounds that could have come from a surreal carnival, the crowd seemed mesmerized as they oohed and ahhed their way through the set, nudging one another with knowing nods over favorite songs. Not even the guy selling beers roaming through the crowd could divert their attention for very long. Though most of the set came from Beach House’s latest release, Teen Dream, the title of their second release (Devotion) came to mind watching the crowd.
The stage was practically bedazzled (bejeweled?) with glittery, pinata-like hanging decorations. (Legrand said in an interview she likes jewels because of their facets, so this must be the reason behind the stage decor.) All clad in black-and-white—including touring drummer Daniel Franz—the band then gently faded into “Lover of Mine,” a track that gives a nod to another track, “Norway,” but that wouldn’t be totally out of place in an ’80s Brat Pack soundtrack. The melancholy “Gila” followed, and the band also played “Astronaut,” also from Devotion.
Legrand announced before launching into “White Moon,” appropriately enough while backed by a starry backdrop, that the band had never played the song live before. “Used to Be,” with its childlike keyboards that captures a melancholic nostalgia, was another high point, as was the ethereal “Zebra.” The encore of “Real Love” and “10 Mile Stereo” ended the Teen Dream. While the melodic ebb and flow of Beach House’s music might not seem to be the makings of a memorable live show, the band created an atmospheric sound for an unsurprisingly dreamy, yet not sleepy, set. The music is equally held together by the unwavering vocals of opera-trained Legrand.
A one-man act behind a keyboard runs the risk of being boring, but opener Washed Out (a.k.a. Ernest Greene) delivered a chilled wave of ebullient one-arm-in-the-air bounce. (When gone awry, the one-man band approach can be awkward and sad for the audience, like my experience with VVerevvolf Grehv.) Even watching a guy dance around behind a keyboard can only entertain so long, though, so when the members Small Black joined him onstage, it was a boost of adrenaline and rounded out his exemplary set.