Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012

A Brighter Beach House

By Evan Rytlewski
beach house
Adam Miszewski
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Nearly everybody I know who saw Beach House’s 2010 performance at the Pabst Theater described it in one word: dark. In the spirit of their muse Mazzy Star, the band performed on a barely lit stage, casting only the faintest silhouettes, a moody but not especially dynamic setup that turned off some fans. Light wasn’t a problem at Beach House’s return show at the Pabst Theater last night, though. The duo and their touring drummer were accompanied by a vibrant display that cast bright patterns behind the band and sent swirling cathedrals of light over the crowd. It was gorgeous.

The dramatic light show spoke volumes about how far Beach House has come as a band. After two albums of fragile, muted dream-pop, the group went all warm and fuzzy on 2010’s Teen Dream, a love letter to love, and they doubled down on those sentiments on their new Bloom, swapping somnambulant tempos and psychedelic ambiance for their biggest, most direct hooks yet.Though that increased pop focus costs Bloom some of the star-gaze mystique of Teen Dream, those heavier new songs sounded fantastic live. At times the performance seemed designed to cut against the group’s drowsy reputation: The guitars were loud, the drums boomed—occasionally falling into a blunt, pounding dance beat—and singer Victoria Legrand closed the show with the biggest surprise of the night, headbanging through the final thrusts of “Irene,” sending whips of curly hair over her keyboard. And, after a brief pause, she did it again, as if to make sure the audience had enough time to process what they were witnessing. No, their eyes weren't deceiving them: They were really watching the singer from Beach House headbang.

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