Concert Reviews

Beach House Filled the Ogden With Stars and Memories

At this point in its career, Beach House has reached an axis where its songwriting carries great emotional intimacy, its stage show features elevated rock theater, and its fan base is large enough to support the band making music full-time. Yet Beach House still plays intimate venues, which highlight the best of these aspects of its performance.

When the band appeared at Denver's Ogden Theatre last night, the stage was shrouded in semi-darkness, and singer Victoria Legrand wore a hood that slightly obscured her face. For a few moments, it felt like getting to see the band in a dimly lit DIY venue like Rhinoceropolis, where many of Beach House's Baltimore contemporaries have performed over the years. But soon enough the real stage lighting kicked in and rendered the space as the setting where Beach House could weave the contemplative storytelling, nostalgia-tinged musings and impassioned torch songs that have made it one of the most popular bands to emerge from the indie underground of the 2000s.

The dominant hues of the stage set were cool colors with streaks of warm reds and oranges, which served to highlight faces and passages of songs, a light fog softening the lights. In addition, there were framed boxes draped in translucent fabric behind the musicians, and LEDs lit up the backdrop like distant stars on a clear summer night, far from the ambient haze of urban sprawl.

Beach House's performance strengthened this sense of space and wonder. “Gila,” from the 2008 album Devotion, found new life and seemed cinematic in scope compared to the recording because of the visuals. The rhythm got a subtle but unmistakable boost from drummer James Barone's keen sensitivity to texture, tone and pacing. When star fields scrolled down the backdrop later in the set, it evoked a sense of travel in time and memory, emphasizing how the set list itself traveled across the band's career. 

By filling the stage of the Ogden with stars and connecting it to the desires of its audience (indeed, the band has reached out to fans to find out what they want to hear at a show), Beach House engaged in some of its own burgeoning myth-making. Since its inception, the band has expanded and refined its sound, and, based on the number of couples in attendance, found its way into the life soundtracks of thousands of people. But Beach House can and must go beyond where it has been so far, musically speaking. The band has obvious talent for articulating high emotions without waxing maudlin, and the fans are invested, so the question is where to go from here.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.