The last time Beach House was in New York, they were opening for The National at Prospect Park. That was back in July of 2010, four months after the release of Teen Dream. Although the album would end up being my favorite of the year, there was something off about the concert. Victoria Legrand, the most bewitching of lead singers, admitted as much last night when, referring to a show Beach House performed in last spring at Webster Hall, she said, “Everything feels totally different,” before launching into “Used to Be.” It’s true: they’re not the same they used to be.
Beach House has been touring almost non-stop behind Teen Dream, and they’ve found a formula that works. Everything’s just a bit more pronounced, from the way Victoria draws out certain words and generally sings just the slightest bit slower, to Alex Scally’s fluidity of playing guitar while simultaneously fiddling around with seemingly dozens of pedals at his feet, to Daniel Franz’s forceful cymbal-heavy drumming. “Lover of Mine” shuffled more, while the songs from 2008’s Devotion, like “Astronaut” and opener “Gila,” had a sleepy soulful quality that the band hadn’t quite mastered when they made the album. There were even fist pumps (plural) from Victoria signifying the added power behind “Norway,” and hair-whipping in “Zebra.”
And that voice! The band has been accused of being too chilly, too uninviting—music that you’re supposed to like rather than music that's actually enjoyable—but they’re missing the warmth in Victoria’s husky, sultry voice, sometimes literally (“In our beds, we’re the lucky ones/Fill us with the sun”). She’s able to go from lament to seduction on dime, and during the show, with the organ and guitar swirling around, it felt like she was playing for a large, loyal group of friends, rather than strangers she’ll likely never see again.
Beach House plays much larger live than their albums would have you assume. With three glowing pyramids and flickering strobe lights behind them and a fog-covered, cult-like audience in front (if the crowd is any indication, Victoria has become the unlikeliest of fashion icons), they could have easily filled a much larger venue, both in terms of sound and paying customers, with the way the reverb-heavy songs traveled. They’re a large band in a small body.
The 15-song set finished with “Real Love” and “10 Mile Stereo,” where all the instruments came crashing down on one another, resembling the end of one of My Bloody Valentine’s softer songs. Like the song says, “Love’s like a pantheon, it carries on forever,” so too does Beach House’s sound.
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury