In every era of rock and roll there is a streak of romanticism, a disenchanted, daydream sound that becomes revered for its cool detachment with the world at large. Past generations had the Velvet Underground, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Mazzy Star. Today, we have the sultry, stranded sounds of Baltimore, Maryland duo Beach House. Singer-keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally graced Richards on Richards on a chilly late January night with an evening of music to escape our troubled times with.
Amidst crowd chatter, Shawnigan Lake, B.C. quartet Johnny & the Moon opened the night with a set of blues-laden country reminiscent of depression-era folk ballads. Lead by former Hot Hot Heat member Dante DeCaro, the band rolled their way through piano-inflected songs about city living and the lessons of a wayward life. The upbeat number “Kid Heaven” spread itself slowly over the crowd with drifting keyboard lines and ebbing drum beat, while the slightly intoxicated, cantankerous melodic weave of “When You’re All Alone” easily held the attention of the crowd huddled under the orange stage lights.
The unusually large Sunday evening turnout dispersed briefly before Beach House took the stage with drummer Daniel J. Franz in tow. Beginning with the contemplative, nearly erotic “You Came to Me”, the trio played a selection of songs from their self-titled debut and 2008’s Devotion. Underneath the glare of a disco ball, the bizarre waltz of “Heart of Chambers” and the guitar driven harmonies of “Wedding Bell” mesmerized the swaying crowd, temporarily giving Richards the atmosphere of a high school dance.
While some might dismiss this wistful balladeering as self-indulgent escapism or phony bohemian posturing (the scourge of all great rock), it rang true enough for a floor-pounding encore call. Despite the haze and pensive pace of their songs, it was refreshing to hear Beach House play music to slow down to, music that impressed with unobtrusive ease rather than the flashy kitsch of the consumer-grade pop spectacle we’re all so used to.