Beach House @ The Ritz, Manchester (27th October 2015)

BH RitzjpgIt’s been a busy few months for Beach House after the release of their fifth album at the end of August. Soon after which their world tour in support of Depression Cherry began in the U.S. Having not long digested that album, the Baltimore duo surprised everyone by announcing yet another album, Thank Your Lucky Stars, in mid-October. As part of the European-leg of their tour, the moody dream-poppers recently played at the musty and packed out Manchester Ritz, a venue that has been host to some of the greats down the years.

Support for the evening was provided by experimental instrumental guitarist Dustin Wong. Accompanied by only a pedal board, the Hawaiian-born one man band produced a performance that was full of twists and turns, with layers of looped guitar and pre-programmed sounds stacked on top of one another into a challenging cacophony. Just before reaching breaking point the direction would suddenly shift into dreamy, gentle melodies or hyper sugary electronica in the vein of Dan Friel. Like it or not, it’s certainly something that isn’t easily forgotten.

For their Depression Cherry tour Beach House have placed a “Setlist Creator” on their website allowing fans to vote for three songs they’d like to hear at the shows they attend. Songs from Depression Cherry were always going to feature the most given that the tour is in support of that album, but so far their shows in the U.S. and Europe have featured a varied selection of songs from across all of their albums. Although writing as a duo, vocalist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally were joined by two extra bodies on stage, a drummer and a bassist, all of whom appeared as black silhouettes during the early part of the show due to the sparse lighting.

Depression Cherry opener “Levitation” is an underwhelming start to that album but it worked well here, with some of the production polish of their studio albums sacrificed in order to aid their transition into a live setting. Other songs taken from the album come out sounding better live too, with the keyboard arpeggios and slide guitar of “Space Song” also seeing the heavy darkness lifted slightly by a starlit sky stage backdrop. The album’s second single “PPP” is another early stand-out, as is the shoegaze-inspired lead-single “Sparks”, which appeared later on in the set.

There was a live debut of “All Your Yeahs” from their newest album, but it felt flaccid and out of place by comparison. The only other track to feature from Thank Your Lucky Stars was “One Thing”, with the opening feedback sounding like they were going break into a cover of “School” by Nirvana. It was one of a number of songs that saw Legrand swapping her organ for a guitar. Reaching back into their earliest material there was also enough room squeeze in”Saltwater” from their self-titled debut, as well as “Gila” from follow-up Devotion.

The main highlights of the evening were without doubt the back-to-back performance of “Silver Soul” and “10 Mile Stereo”, from their “breakout” album Teen Dream. The lovely piano-led “On the Sea” from Bloom which followed these topped off the perfect centrepiece. Throughout the whole show the crowd were virtually motionless, but during pre-encore closer “Myth” there were some rare signs of life. Although not that much, with a bit head swaying and some arms in the air being the closet the sprung dancefloor came to being tested.

Besides a few expressions of gratitude there was also very little motion and audience engagement by Beach House, who seem to prefer performing their music over stage antics and crowd banter. Although during closer “Irene” Legrande did loosen up a bit to engage in a spot of head banging, throwing her long, curly locks around a few times as the crescendo reached its peak. With a voice as mesmerisingly beautiful hers, there isn’t really much else you can ask for.

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