Beirut: Live Last Night

Live Last Night

Sixth & I Historic Synagogue would seem like the perfect venue to see a band like Beirut, whose amalgam of Eastern European swing, marching band, indie folk, Serge Gainsbourg (and recently, Mexican funeral music) relies on an otherworldly mystique. And while Saturday night's show was more like an ordinary, uneven rock concert than transcendent experience, there were moments when music and milieu combined to produce a stately, sonorous elegance.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Listening to Beirut's records, it's easy to forget that leader Zach Condon is a young man, cultivating a romantic musical vision. But onstage, he still carries the aura of the kid from the high school band, by turns awkward and sheepish, never truly comfortable until he could pick up his trumpet and join the full throat of his group as it raised up to envelop him. Which it often did, thankfully.

Presented in concert, songs such as "Elephant Gun," "A Sunday Smile," "Scenic World" and "My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille" are difficult to separate, a blur of too-similar melody and arrangement, topped with Condon's slurring croon.

So, Beirut was best Saturday night when the gorgeous mix of horns, keyboards and accordions strutted into instrumental breaks or blasted mariachi-tinged passages from the recent "March of the Zapotec" EP.

And Condon sounded best on tunes that slipped between his world music muse and his indie dreamer stance (which owes a lot to Stephen Merritt, anyway): Both the recently-revived "East Harlem" and a ukulele-and-voice rendition of "The Penalty" were stirring.

And if the hour-plus show wasn't nearly as magnificent as the rapturous closing applause indicated, it did suggest Condon and Co. might one day develop a live set that matches the mature breadth of their recordings.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  April 13, 2009; 7:23 AM ET Live Last Night
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