Beach House Dreams Big at the Bluebird, but eventually wakes up and brings music alive
New Zealander Annabel Alpers, who performs as Bachelorette, opened the show with a set that ranged from folk-pop to indie dance -- basically the whole spectrum of what you might expect from a "bedroom" musician these days. Alpers relied heavily on laptop backing tracks, but her Björk-ish voice does most of the work in her music anyway, so the harmonized vocals on those backing tracks were welcome.
Alpers was perfectly affable on stage, and while that affability can occasionally keep her music--especially the dance elements--from getting beyond being merely pleasant, she displayed enough idiosyncrasy and craft that I could see myself, given headphones and a rainy day, developing a soft spot for her music.
One of the biggest themes to emerge from Beach House interviews (like ours) recently has been the band's struggle to assert the physicality of its music, to drag its sound (and image) out of the sepia-toned, insular bubble in which it developed and into a place where it can actually move a room full of 700 people.
To that end, the band's first two albums are like beautiful little objects you keep in a box; you treasure them, but they're best enjoyed more or less privately. New album Teen Dream succeeds in being more immediate and universal in its appeal, and the band's recent string of sell-out shows (including last night's) suggested that that immediacy would come through on stage as well.
Based on what I saw last night, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are still very much engaged in that struggle. About two-thirds of the show just felt like the band standing on stage and playing its songs; the performances were fine but inert, not really sounding or feeling any different than on record. Even "Silver Soul," probably the grandest song Legrand and Scally have written yet, felt a little flat, and I started to worry -- maybe they're not ready for these kinds of crowds, I thought.
Or maybe they were just getting used to the altitude (which they both commented on/complained about at least a couple times), because near the end of their main set, starting with epic dirge "Heart of Chambers," from Devotion, the music started breathing more, and Legrand grew more physical, gesturing all over with her hands (when she could free them from her keyboards) and throwing her huge head of loose curls around like a proper metal dude.
Continuing with "Take Care," which closed the main set, and then an encore that included "Real Love" and "10 Mile Stereo," Beach House continued to grow into the room, and by the time they left the stage, Legrand and Scally had convinced me that their music really can play to large crowds.
I fell in love with Beach House (as did many people, I imagine) partly because of its insularity, the sense that I'd discovered this gorgeous little world that no one else knew about, so the band's recent explosion in popularity has been a little jarring, but Beach House deserves all the fans and sold-out shows it can get, and it will be fascinating to see just how big this little band from Baltimore can get.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Beach House makes me swoon all over the place. Random Detail: One of Legrand and Scally's semi-coherent exchanges with the audience ended with Scally reciting part of "Gangsta's Paradise." By the Way: Legrand and Scally were accompanied by live drummer Daniel Franz.
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