Friday, October 12, 2012

review: beach house at the riviera theater 10.11.12

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I’ve tried to curtail my desire to write about every single show I attend. Mainly this is because I find myself seeing my favourite bands over and over every time they come through town. For instance, I skipped writing about Thee Oh Sees/Ty Segall show at Logan Square Auditorium a few weeks ago since I’d already written extensively about both bands multiple times. I think my grand total of Oh Sees live reviews comes to three over the past two years. In short I also didn’t write about the Logan Square Auditorium show because it was one of those instances where the environment began to overshadow the music. It was an 18 and over show and since we went to the late show it was kind of like wandering into a kegger after everyone in the room had done their requisite kegstand. It was the perfect example of how difficult I can find it to be in a room filled with kids who are so much younger than me. This is why I attend so few all ages shows as well. This brings us to last night at the Riviera, which I purchased tickets for back when they went on sale in May. I’m to the point where the main allure of all ages shows is that they begin and end fairly early thus meaning people tend to save their A-game drinking Olympic feats for after the show rather than timing their ultimate level of inebriation with the headlining band’s set time. This and, given that I often have to wake up as early as 5am to get to work, any show that ends by 10:30 is going to seem alluring. The flip-side of this coin is that being in a room full of teenagers at a show can be really irritating. This is the frame of mind I was in as I walked into the Riviera last night as openers Poor Moon were playing.

Beach House has been probably my favourite new band since I first started buying up all of their music a few years ago. I’ve missed every one of their live stops in town since their headlining show at the Metro in April of 2010. I even missed them opening for Grizzly Bear at the Metro in 2009. Seeing them at Pitchfork in July was a very emotional experience for me mainly because of this—it had been built up in my mind for years at that point. Despite lofty expectations I walked away from their sunset-timed set that day in complete awe. I was a bit worried that I’d have a repeat of the Oh Sees/Ty Segall show plagued with enough tiny, petty annoyances to keep me out of the moment. Surprisingly, the night went incredibly smoothly. Poor Moon only played for 30 minutes (while it would’ve been fine if they’d played a full 45 minute set it was nice to not have to wait for the main event). I staked out a spot towards the back of the 2nd tier and had tons of personal space and didn’t have people passing in front of me the entire night. I couldn’t really catch a decent view of the band onstage, but they had brought with them a jaw-dropping light show that I've only seen surpassed by the one that My Bloody Valentine brought with them to the Aragon in 2008. The normally muddy sound at the Riviera was full-bodied, but allowed for the subtleties to shine through. The abundance of low-end ended up enhancing the sound rather than making it just sound like a bunch of loud crap that you can’t draw anything out of. It sounded hard hitting and incredibly beautiful. Where the open air and light at Pitchfork had hindered the sound and the light show, here at a huge indoor theater this was never even close to a problem. I expected to hear more of the backing tracks, but those continue to play even less of a part than they had during their many, rambling ‘Teen Dream’ tours. Considering there are only three people playing fairly Spartan parts they were able to summon a hurricane of overwhelming and beautiful sound whenever they wanted to. Their performance was incredibly dynamic and the simplistic mix of lighting effects made for a highly immersive sensory experience. It was easy to close your eyes, zone out and get completely lost in the experience—much like the aforementioned My Bloody Valentine show.

The setlist was drawn from the entirety of ‘Bloom’ (except for ‘New Year’), more than half of ‘Teen Dream’ (the first half and ’10 Mile Stereo'), two tracks from ‘Devotion’ and one from the self-titled record. Things went smoothly through the first quarter of the set with the same highlights as their set at Pitchfork (‘Other People’ again hitting an early emotional high note) until the first surprise of the night—‘Master of None’ from their self-titled debut, which segued into ‘Silver Soul.’ From those two songs until the next unexpected surprise of the night—the incredibly beautiful and moving version of ‘On the Sea’—the set achieved a level of pure bliss that I’ve experience very rarely at shows I go to these days. It’s one thing to enjoy the overwhelming balls-out abandon and anarchy of a great rock band, but it’s entirely another to let music that is otherworldly and beautiful weave it’s web around your senses. The version of ‘Silver Soul’ that they played last night was jaw-droppingly beautiful and blissed-out. When they played it at Pitchfork it took on a wistful and deeply wounded energy. Here it took on a contented beauty that was almost religious. It was the type of feeling I remember from seeing the Cure 12 years ago.

The next series of highlights came during the encore. They played ‘Turtle Island’ (which I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear that night), which grew into a giant behemoth of powerful beauty that the album version barely hints at. From there they tore into ’10 Mile Stereo’ with more abandon than they had at Pitchfork into ‘Bloom’ closing track ‘Irene’ which is capable of completely destroying me even when I just listen to the album version. Even knowing they would probably end with it did nothing to dull its emotional impact.

I was home by 11 and was able to get five hours of sleep before work today. As I remember the show I continue to bask in the joy of falling in love with a band so deeply that their music has woven itself into the fabric of my memories in only a few years. During the night I remembered people and events I hadn’t thought about in years and it took me back to some of the most beautiful moments of the last two years (which have been incredibly trying and difficult). I don’t care how hyped they are, their music is an important part of my life. I should also mention how gracious the band were throughout the course of the evening—Victoria Legrand thanked the crowd at least five times for being there saying that this experience wouldn’t exist without them. It was refreshing to hear from a band playing their biggest headlining show in town to date. It also feels good to love a band this much and share the experience with a great crowd for a change. It certainly was more fulfilling than if I’d stayed home and watched another round of absurdist political theater even if the ‘side’ I consider myself to be on had ‘won’ that round.

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