Beach House is another of the bands that needed time to grow in me. It must be my reluctant approach to simplicity and essentiality that has been developing only recently.
2010 has been such an amazing year for Beach House that even the more reluctant of people couldn’t ignore the buzz (actually the dreamy melodies) around the release of their third album, Teen Dream. A collection of tunes that has the capability to enter people minds with the simplest songs sang by the most powerful of voices. It takes its time, like a craftman masterpiece. It did not stun me at first listen, it worked on the subconscious slowly, entered my mind bit by bit… shall I say “beat by beat”? No? Ok, better I leave my English humour to next life.
Teen Dream, if my memory for once doesn’t fail, was released in February, but it was the warmth of the summer days that manage to get me involved first, fall in love second.
Zebra is the opening song and it is the song that caught my attention, penetrated the skin and never went away. It is still here with me, I think of it, it plays in my brain. Actually I have just put it on again right now and I am tapping the arpeggio on my desk.
Since last july zebra isn’t an animal anymore in my vocabulary.
Apart from the Guardian, that got it completely wrong, Teen Dream has been universally acclaimed as Beach House best work to date, but it is not for Zebra that the LP is present in virtually any “best album of 2010” list I have read so far, included the one I prepared and let you vote here on the right.
Zebra is only a Trojan horse (black and white horse … ok sorry I’ll stop this!) who let the list of songs in the album to reach my rational mind. Teen Dream is amazing from start to finish and if the open track has been my favourite for a long time, after this show I cannot decide anymore.
Shepherds Bush Empire is completely sold out. This is the biggest gig Beach House ever headlined, everywhere in the world as they, visibly happy, point out once on stage. London is as usual quicker than anyone else to pick up where music goes. The place to be if you want to know contemporary music scene.
It must be quite amazing to see the sumptuous theatre full of people waiting for you.
Last time I saw Beach House live they were opening a now legendary Fleet Foxes concert at the ULU. It must have been June 2008 or something. Devotion their second album was out and I still have a beautiful psychedelic poster hanging in my living room as a memory of that unforgettable night.
I remember (do I?) they were a duo and since then Beach House, in my mind, kept being a duo. To be fair they have always been to me Victoria Legrand‘s band with her fellow keyboardist/guitarist Alex Scally.
It is quite a surprise to see tonight a stage arranged for four people and four people arrive on stage. I am told they had this line up for more than a while.
If Dream-pop is the music they pioneered, invented, perfectioned, is debatable and would not make a favour to Kate Bush to name one. Beach House reinvented the 80s dreamy, ethereal, synthetic and someway too complicate atmospheres to new millennium concreteness. The deep voice of Victoria Legrand is the best example to see the difference with Kate Bush or Cocteau Twins.
Tonight show is all about dream and less about pop.
A set of lit pyramids on the back change colours designing monochromatic lightscapes that frame the band and gets on (ours) photographers nerves. Victoria stands in the centre, behind keyboards and mic; drums on the right; guitar, keys and other odd tricks on the left re-establish the simmetry of a 4-in-line line-up.
The concert open with Better Times and it is difficult to argue that there haven’t been better times for them, despite the lovestory hidden in the lyrics I can see the metaphore when song goes “We don’t need a sign to know better times”. Signs will arrive in endless round af applause.
Walk in the Park, Norway and Silver Soul close the poker of songs from Teen Dream. When a band can open a concert with 4 songs from the new album, album that is going to be played in full, you know that you are part of a gig of someone at the top of his career.
Master of None from the self titled debut and Astronaut from Devotion set a short look back in time before three more tracks bring Teen Dream to its live splendour.
Lover of Mine scattered drumming sounds great but is the beauty of Used to Be that stuns me and opens the competition of new favourite song. Zebra will follow and fights back. It is the moment I became aware I am at “one of those gigs”.
Heart of Chambers was one of my favourite from Devotion and still is. It will also be the last track from the past. In the thirteen songs they will play, the ten tracks of Teen Dream are all on the list with just 3 from their past. A bit unbalanced. Missing Wedding Bells is a bit annoying. Then I listen to Take Care, that closes the gig, and realize that Beach House, playing live for almost a year, brough these songs to perfection.
The band is back for a grand finale. Real Love and 10 Mile Stereo are the last two missing tracks from Teen Dream and complete the show with the last going round on its upward spiral structure until it reaches the climax..
They leave the Shepherds Bush stage with an endless, thoroughly deserved standing ovation that only the start of DJ’s music and lights on convince the audience it is time to go catching the tube back home.
Tonight Beach House stated they are one of the best bands around, Victoria Legrand amazing voice is ready to conquer the music world shaping dream-pop for years to come.
I would love avoiding another rant against Shepherd Bush Empire crew but either I am unlucky or they have my name written in graffiti in the ticket office.
Fact is I arrive there with (I know them) 3 e-mails printed stating that I am down with a photopass and a ticket to see the show and the nice (this is ironic…) blonde girl tells me I am not on any list. So far, typical, next step is to show the e-mails and usually it gets sorted. Not tonight. She talks to someone and she agrees she can give me a ticket but not a photopass: “There are no ways you will shoot this gig”. Quite rude and conclusive as this I enter my “let’s see who wins” mood. I tell her: “I came all the way from Cambridge to photograph this show, I have been confirmed twice, I will be in the pit”. She looks at me with a “we’ll see, good luck” smile in her eyes.
I grab the ticket, sit down, iPhone in hand, all social networks apps opened and start chasing my contacts.
It doesn’t take long. Thanks god it is Bellaunion. It must be stated everywhere, there is nothing as good as Bellaunion label to deal with in UK. A couple of phone calls, 2 direct messages on twitter (god save it too) some SMS and the tour manager arrives from the backstage to pick my case up.
Which wasn’t a case. He tells the grumpy blonde girl: “can you give this photographer a photopass, please?” and in a second with the sticker in hand I head to the backstage door. Her 15 Warholean minutes of fame ends with me looking at her revealing a “I told you!”.
All of this to tell moral to this story is that you do have to bring with you an e-mail stating you are on the guestlist every single concert you go, no matter how nice the PR have been, but also be sure to have with you a mobile number, an open twitter account, an e-mail of someone on a blackberry or iPhone who is there to help you in case you meet the grumpy blonde girl. You won’t believe how many of them are in charge to sort out photo pass lists.