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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, February 29

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Concert Thu Sep 29 2011

Beirut Shines, Shows Mature Side @ Congress Theater

Beirut at the Congress Theater (photos by Andy Keil)

Ah, how time flies. No more the 17-year-old Sante Fe-based wunderkind piecing together an album in his bedroom, Beirut frontman Zach Condon has grown into his own, and nowhere was this more apparent than at their show at the Congress Theater on Monday night. Where before Condon was a bit gawky and awkward onstage, he is now a self-assured, 25-year-old trumpet-playing crooner who knows how to keep an audience captivated.

The show's opener, Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier, performed an earnest but drowsy acoustic solo set. Unfortunately her time onstage was met with rotten sound, technical difficulties, and a super loud audience. Two teenagers near me played chess on their cell phones the entire time.

Beirut at the Congress Theater (photos by Andy Keil)

But on to the main event. Immediately upon opening with "Scenic World" from their first album, The Gulag Orkestar, it was obvious that not only had Condon grown, but so had the band's live show. Way back in 2006, Beirut made its mark with a house blend of sigh-inducing pop a la Neutral Milk Hotel and Eastern European-dipped songwriting laced with nostalgia. Kids got into the croon and waxed their curly mustaches in support of the Indie Bloc uprising. So too onstage: Gone was the large ragtag herd of faux gypsies roaming the stage with their old-timey instruments. In their stead was a smaller smattering of nattily dressed multi-instrumentalist fellows.

Beirut at the Congress Theater (photos by Andy Keil)

In fact, this time Beirut brought a nearly traditional rock backing (with the additions of, you know, sousaphone and accordion). While their new LP, The Rip Tide, is notable for its stripped-down nature, the live show was quite different. Instead of fleshing out the songs in the typically lush Beirut fashion, the band members got a little bit faster and a lot louder, as if someone just taught them how to plug in their instruments. While I missed the violin, cello, and the more plinky delicate instrumentation of their old set-up, it was also thrilling to watch people in the audience build to spells of blissed-out dancing whenever the brass-heavy choruses would hit. Strings of red and white party lights shot out over the space, lending certain songs a house party/fiesta feel. The set list was balanced between their hits and tracks from the new album. Standards such as "Nantes" were excellent, if not a bit speedy, but a couple of songs, including "The Akara," stumbled upon the revised orchestration. Oddly, although Condon said how much they loved and were influenced by Stereolab, they didn't play a cover of the band or invite Sadier to join them.

Beirut at the Congress Theater (photos by Andy Keil)

The band returned for two encores, including "The Curtain," the pop ballad "Goshen," and, yes, a hot tuba solo. (Whatever. You love it.) A solid evening overall, and one many band geeks both past and present will not soon forget.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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