Notes Tagged ‘Beirut’

Beirut + Laetitia Sadier at the Congress Theater

September 26th, 2011

Long since his teenage vagabond idealisms came to life, and the young crooner escaped his Sante Fe bedroom in chase of the hooks of Balkan sea chants, French chanson and Mexican big-band, Zach Condon of the now NYC-based Beirut was in his pop element last night at the Congress Theater, leading a five-piece band with the grown up suavity of Morrissey and the mystery of a gypsy emcee.

There were no tricks up the man’s sleeve. He played it straight for a two-dozen song set spread across three EPs and two albums, including his latest, The Rip Tide. To record Rip Tide, Condon made like Justin Vernon and holed himself away in an upstate New York cabin in attempt to clear his head of a four-year touring hiatus and a punctured eardrum mishap. The result was all of Condon’s worldly influences past and present fused into a pristine brass foray that allowed him to steer away from Thom-Yorke-style warbles.

In the Congress ballroom, Condon lead with an old debut cut fav,”Scenic World,” nixing the record’s drum machine fill for a xylophone tinkle. Fans were in sing-along mode from the get-go,  Condon lofting a lyric about imagining a careless life, layering a three-part trumpet fill over its signature accordion sway, in a huge proud, bright horn moment, while a series of string bulbs lit their way up to a hook in the ceiling.

The sentiments were clear the entire evening, for the most part, at a venue notorious for its hit-or-miss sound issues. If Condon wasn’t beaming under the solo light of a mandolin fill on fan faves like “A Sunday Smile” or “Postcards From Italy,” he was one-arming trumpet fills, and annunciated stories with a confidence that wasn’t in evidence behind the more cacophonous quirks of his early days. There were some of those dramatic instrumentals plugged in there for fun. But they would be followed with something like “Nantes” off The Flying Club Cup, Condon clear as ever, aching out “It’s been a long time now since I’ve seen your smile.”

Teasing a handful of encores at the end of the evening, Condon came back out for one last bare Flying Club Cup mandolin number, “The Penalty,” an old Parisian cafe tune wrought with parental imagery and lines about “fully grown children” and “impassable nights,” the now 25-year old a married man with house and dog. If it were an earlier version of Condon, the tune might have been marred by overwrought wailing. But this time every word was a clear dance around your head. And with an onstage wave, the band came on to bring it home, tuba, accordion, trumpet and all. It’s always great to see an artist grow.

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Pitchfork Fest ’09: We Miss Being Ruffians

July 21st, 2009

Pitchfork’s festival has always fought the good fight to rise above the internet buzz of the now and host emergent, top-notch tuneage. Bursts of unbridled true colors have been spotted the past four years (see fire marshals suppressing the onstage parties of Girl Talk and Dan Deacon), and this year was no exception.

Aside from the media shitstorm that is Wavves, and the photographer-shunning set the duo sludged through mid-afternoon, Saturday was full of affirming sets that left crowds and artists confused. Opener Cymbals Eat Guitars are just starting to see the light outside of their New York garage, and yet could not comprehend how triumphantly they killed the Pavement-ethos of hit single, “And The Hazy Sea.”  Meanwhile, Beirut’s Zach Condon quipped that the audience was the largest his dear ukulele had ever seen, before witnessing a few interesting souls crowd-surf in synch to baroque waltzes from Gulag Orkestar.  

I could ruminate how the music industry is so completely privatized that there will forever be a yearn to communally appreciate artists at large-scale festivals like this. But really, Saturday was Pitchfork concretely evolving into one of the best destination festivals around, complete with every division of taste and tastemaker.

The evolution of the festival has certainly not always been the almighty finger-on-the-pulse. Yoko Ono in 2007? The woman wasted a good half-hour of people’s attention teaching the audience how to say “I love you” with a flashlight. But capped by The National’s brooding, Viking guitar voyages, supported by an ear-to-ear smile session in drum-and-organ pop from Matt and Kim, DOOM’s purebred hip-hop and a retro-punk stage destruction from the Black Lips, Saturday was the sound of attention being rewarded.

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