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live music review: beach house, webster hall, february 23 2011

On February 23, 2011, I went to Webster Hall to see Beach House and Papercuts play a sold out show to a crowd of adoring fans, myself included.

I’m not sure when exactly Beach House exploded, probably when the song “Norway” became popular back in 2009 and helped usher in the chillwave movement that defined the music of 2010.

Papercuts opened the show with an excellent, harmonious set. Although the crowd was a little too loud for my liking during such an acoustic, intimate series of songs, it was clear why Beach House had chosen Papercuts to accompany them on this tour. The “dream pop” aesthetic that has come to define Beach House’s piano-meets-guitar-pedal sound begins with heartfelt songwriting and folk like that of Papercuts. Papercuts is a band fronted by Jason Quever’s heartfelt vocals, easy melodies and dreamy atmospheric sound. He was backed by four other musicians to fully fill up the space with their sound. My favorites included “Wait Til I’m Dead” and “Future Primitive”.

After their short set, Beach House took the stage. Duo Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally were joined by a live drummer and a synced light show that added an intensity often missing from their albums Teen Dream and Beach House. The band opened with an extended, tripped-out version of classic “Gila” in place of their more mainstream hits, which was met with joy by the older fans in the audience and general confusion by the kids that were there just to be there.

After that, though, Beach House delivered what everyone was waiting for. They proceeded an MVP Playlist that took hits off each of their albums  through hit after hit, providing powerhouse performances of songs like “Lover of Mine”, “Zebra”, “Used to Be” , personal favorite “Take Care” and “10 Mile Stereo”.

In that last two videos especially, which also happened to be the band’s encore, you can see how the light show totally impacted the live performance. By syncing the lights to the music so perfectly, Beach House captured exactly what makes watching live music so amazing: that feeling of being connected to something larger than yourself that I think all of us music contributors on lip have mentioned at one point or another. The combination of lights and music really visualized that feeling for the audience, which is where Beach House truly succeeded. Adding this element to their live show took it from a warm and fuzzy pop session to something much deeper.

I like dream pop as much as the next hipster and I am a longtime fan of the band, but Victoria’s voice is a powerful instrument in and of itself that the band is not capitalizing on enough. Her voice has drawn the band comparisons to Nico, but Victoria has a seemingly limitless vocal range and powerful depth that puts her in a class all her own. The instances where Victoria really belted, like in the last minute of “Take Care”, is the direction in which Beach House needs to go with their next album.

Except for a few sound bytes here and there revealing oddly personal information about herself, Victoria was intent on “getting to the emotion” in place of talking to the crowd between songs. This commitment to business made the show’s ending seem altogether abrupt; I felt as though I was taken on a journey that was far more efficient than I would’ve liked. The Beach House sound and feel got me so comfortable with the music and the place that when the lights came on, it truly was like waking from the best dream ever.

(Image credits: 1, 2.)

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