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Concert Thu Sep 29 2011

Beirut Shines, Shows Mature Side @ Congress Theater

Beirut-3306-web.jpg
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-3387-web.jpg
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.

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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-3293-web.jpg
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 »

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