Beach House @ The Enmore Theatre, Sydney (03/01/2013)
There is something insurmountably odd about this show: about the people, the atmosphere, the staging. There shouldn’t be. Beach House are, if anything, one of the landmark bands of their genre – creators of spaced-out pop that sits comfortably between the legacies of the Cocteau Twins and The Knife. But as supporting act Wintercoats loops his violin into a tongue-in-cheek cover of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ you could feel a certain sense of unease.
Maybe it’s that, as great as Wintercoats is the song that he lovingly takes on comes from a genre enjoying its own resurgence, via the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean and Solange Knowles. Meanwhile, the brand of pop that Wintercoats practices with aplomb has already begun to feel dated. Thankfully, he breathes new life into it with his honest, introverted lyrics. He has the talent to go as far as many others before him – from Andrew Bird to our own Gotye – but whether he can keep up with music culture’s rapid pace remains to be seen.
It is this very rapid movement of music tastes may be the greatest trouble with Beach House today. Bloom was a magnificent record full of tracks that slowly fizzle into epic boiling points. ‘Wild’ the opener for the night’s proceedings, illustrates this perfectly, as the three-piece bring their music to life using only synths, a guitar and drums. Victoria Legrand’s vocals shimmer as she wails through each song, her range a clear standout among the band’s many talents.
“As much as this band has talent and skill, live they lack a sense of urgency about their music.”
But, as much as this band has talent and skill, live they lack a sense of urgency about their music. The beauty of their music, both from Bloom and their previous outing, 2010’s Teen Dream, can often fall short of the epic promises that it makes on record. Tracks fade into one another forming a mellow haze, and truly memorable moments come few and far between. As layered and intricate as their sound is, their music comes off much like their subdued, dark lighting: atmospheric and beautiful but ultimately inappropriate in a live setting.
Yet all this doesn’t come close to the true feeling that surrounds this gig: that no matter how great Beach House are, their time in the figurative spotlight may be up. Their music already feels old-fashioned; a relic of a time so recently passed that it feels bizarre to call it nostalgic – especially when the audience gives much more positive responses to Teen Dream tracks, such as ‘Zebra’ and ‘Norway’ than those from Bloom. The musical zeitgeist is already moving on: the aforementioned rise of R ‘n’ B, new brands of electronic music, even punk gaining a new life. It feels like the time and place for dream-pop has already passed.
Victoria, in a rare moment of banter with the crowd, imitates John Lennon in asking the Enmore Theatre’s balcony “to jangle their jewellery”. As cold as they are, they are clearly having the time of their lives playing in front of the audience. In another rare moment, closer ‘Irene’ sees the band let loose and move like rock stars behind their instruments in a sudden, much-appreciated change of pace.
Beach House are no doubt one of the more gifted bands in the world right now, playing some of the most beautiful music released in the last five years. But unfortunately, the band’s show sells neither of these facts.