Concert Reviews

Review: Beirut at the Fillmore, 9/28/11

BEIRUT at the FILLMORE | 9/28/11
"Thank you, sorry we didn't make it out here sooner," said Zachary Condon of Beirut last night to an adoring crowd at the Fillmore. Despite his birthplace just 350 miles to the south in Santa Fe, the globe-trotting Condon and his band -- correct me in the comments if I'm wrong -- played its first show in Denver last night, trading enthusiasm from the bouncing crowd with a performance that did right by its tiny but diverse discography.

In spite of its old-world sound -- punctuated by trumpets and xylophones on a bed of a sousaphone and accordion -- the boyish Condon looks every bit the 25-year-old he is on stage: He walked out to cheers around 9:15 p.m., while holding a red Solo keg cup and he could have been at a grad-school party, just another dude who plays guitar -- except last night, it was a ukulele, and he autographed one for a fan after the show, which might be the only time such an instrument gets the Sharpie treatment in 2011.

View more photos: Beirut at the Fillmore

Beirut opened its set with "Scenic World," and as he sang "the lights go on," old-fashioned light bulbs strung from the ceiling rafters to the stage rafters twinkled overhead.

Condon's peculiar voice (think of a nasally Catholic priest singing the Liturgy) layered over Germanic, Latin and early synth-pop sounds washed through the Fillmore, with some songs taking on a polka feel as the band sped them up live, which didn't seem to bother the throngs of bouncing twenty-somethings in the audience, except when the beer sloshed out of their clear plastic cups and onto the floor. If there were a Hipster Oktoberfest moment, it would be be during a live performance of "The Akara" by Beirut.

While other songs received a louder response from the audience, it was "Cherbourg" that received the most impassioned sing-alongs from faces dotting the audience, as a few people snaked their way to the front to be closer to the music.

At 10:20 p.m., Condon said goodnight, but after a good two minutes worth of building applause and stomping, the band returned to the stage for a three song encore, then left and came back for two more, capping off the night with a wild sousaphone and trumpet solo before ending around 10:40 p.m.

Opening the show was Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab, whose quiet set -- she stood alone on stage with a Gibson SG plugged into a small amp -- couldn't keep the attention of the talky, then less than half-full Fillmore audience. It was a shame, especially when Sadier extended to the audience for a second time an "invitation to be quiet." (The French, so polite!) She did cover the Stereolab song "Lucia" before ending with "Swim." The applause for her at the end of the set was louder than it should have been, given the audience's apparent disinterest; maybe they were overcompensating for yammering the entire goddamn set.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I had only seen Beirut on one other occasion before last night, during its festival-shortened appearance in 2008 at Pitchfork Music Festival. So going into the show, I had high expectations from a full set from the band that's put out some recordings and done more touring since then. I was not disappointed. Just look at the length of the set list. Random Detail: Sadia praised the Bluebird in Denver during her set, remembering playing there with Stereolab. By The Way: Congratulations to the Jason Schwartzman circa now (see: Bored to Death) look-alike for keeping his hip-hop hands up for most of the set. A nod should also go to the woman who could be dubbed "Silver Water Bottle Dancer," who stood about three rows back and danced way too hard in the best way possible the entire night.

View more photos: Beirut at the Fillmore

Set List

Scenic World The Shrew Elephant Gun Vagabond Postcards from Italy Concubine Santa Fe Sunday Smile East Harlem Forks and Knives The Akara Nantes Port of Call Cherbourg Goshen After the Curtain Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)

Encore: Carousels My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilles The Penalty Gulag Orkestar The Penalty

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Nick Lucchesi
Contact: Nick Lucchesi