Real Live Action

Beach House

with Dustin Wong
October 1 @ Commodore Ballroom

Real Live Review by Duncan McHugh

When Baltimore’s Beach House first came to town in 2006, on tour for their self-titled debut, they played Pat’s Pub. Beach House served as a leitmotif for their sound since then: pounding rhythms, swelling synths, soaring vocals. And, while they’ve retained a distinct sound, albums since have been more polished and the songcraft tighter, even if some of their rough-hewn charm has faded.

Their live shows have followed the same trajectory. After Pat’s, they moved up to the Media Club, then the Rickshaw, then to the Malkin Bowl opening for Vampire Weekend, which brings us to last Monday’s sold out show at the Commodore.

Beach House travel as a trio now: the core duo of Alex Scally (guitar/keyboard) and Victoria Legrand (vocals/organ), and now Daniel Franz, the touring percussionist. At the Commodore, they drew upon their last two albums exclusively: Teen Dream from 2010 and Bloom, released this May. Much like their stage show, full of fancy lights and dramatic poses, the songs were performed with precision close to airlessness.

If you ever want to defend the claim that all of Beach House’s songs sound the same, don’t try to disprove it by naming songs as you hear them. I’m a big fan and I was often stumped; I recognized the tunes, but distinguishing them from one another was a challenge. Maybe only show reviewers sweat this, or maybe it’s just me: a song started and many in the crowd would give a whoop of recognition. Did everyone really know that song was that song. It could have been the other one with the heavy beat and galloping organ, when Legrand really belts it out.

All this to say, Beach House are talented, and while the show wasn’t transcendent, it was good. The songs were performed exactly as they are on the album, the only exception being a modified guitar part on “The Hours.” There was little space for spontaneity or moments of euphoria. For a band that has a thick vein of romanticism coursing through their songs, this was an unfortunate disconnect.

While I missed opener Dustin Wong, those that didn’t said he was good, and friendly at the merch table, cheerfully autographing records. His new album, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, is well worth a listen.