October 4, 2011
The Greek Theatre
Even though Beirut have gained a lot of popularity in the past few years, they haven't completely dispelled the misconception that plagues them wherever they go: They sound like they're from Europe. So when they played the Greek last night, there must have been a few people who were slightly confused when frontman Zach Condon prefaced the song "Santa Fe" by saying it's about his hometown.
Still, despite being the most misleading thing to come out of New Mexico (Roswell be damned!), Beirut seems to have cleaned up their geographical act a bit since the release of 2007's The Flying Club Cup. On their last release, The Rip Tide, they replaced song names like "Cherbourg" and "Nantes" with ones like "East Harlem" and the aforementioned "Santa Fe."
Whatever cartographic association the crowd made with the band, it was undoubtable that they gave an amazing set last night; good feelings and thankfully dry weather made for spectacular, relaxed performances from the band. A forgotten lyric here and there was more than made up for by a laugh from Condon, the kind of stage banter you don't hear enough of anymore ("Petty burns between songs--that's what we've come down to. You don't want to know.") and the occasional comparison of Los Angeles to Brooklyn:
"Fuckin' houses on hills and shit... No, it's not Brooklyn."
"Paul [Collins] literally saw Charlie Sheen drive by in the Batmobile."
Relatively modest lighting supported the casual feel of the night; grinning, impromptu bass and drum solos between songs only emphasized that these guys, unlike so many other bands out there struggling in the transition into the popular eye, still really enjoy themselves on stage and like to play together.
And it's a wonder to behold, watching these guys play. They pulled off classics like "Scenic World" and "Elephant Gun" with just as much intensity as they did tunes off The Rip Tide, though the crowd was strangely much less responsive to "East Harlem" than one would expect.
The only person who didn't play more than one instrument that night was Nick Petree, whose drumming often tied together the impressively-sized instrumental variety from the six-piece outfit. Horns came in with incredible harmony with one another, and Condon's voice provided a perfectly aching vibrato to contrast the sharp immediacy of Kelly Pratt's trumpet.
Though they may seem European on their records, Beirut is a decidedly American band live; besides a few aesthetic quirks (Perrin Cloutier looks like he could be in a Serbian reboot of Seinfeld, which as far as I'm concerned is the highest possible compliment to give out) Beirut's on-stage act was as much about having a good time as it was confusing a bunch of ill-informed fledgling fans.
"I wonder if this is the first time the Greek has seen a uke by itself," Condon mused to the crowd during the band's encore. If it was, then Beirut is definitely worthy of taking the Theatre's ukelele v-card (or u-card, as it were). Sweet songs, uke and horns filled out the sound in the venue with ease. Electric guitars were not missed.
Oh, and there was a tuba solo. Only at a Beirut show would so many people be so excited for a tuba solo.
Critic's Bias: In 2009, a friend of mine almost hit Nick Petree with his car as he was driving away from that year's Treasure Island Music Festival. Even though the guy smiles like a mad scientist when he's really into what he's playing (so, most of the time), I'm still really, really glad that my friend had reflexes quick enough not to hit said percussionist.
The Crowd: Mostly college kids with a more or less equally small number of parents with children and people who look like they're actually European.
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Overheard in the Crowd:
"Do that again, it's working!"
"I'm here with my lesbian lover. No, not Tania. The other one."
Random Notebook Dump: The guy on the other side of the aisle from us looked like Ron Swanson. I'm about 94 percent sure Ron Swanson is a fan of Beirut and travelled from Pawnee (and through a factual-fictional dimensional warp) to be at the Greek last night.
"Postcards From Italy"
"A Sunday Smile"
"Forks and Knives (La Fête)"
"Port of Call"
"After the Curtain
"Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)"
"My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille"
"The Gulag Orkestar"