On Tuesday evening, we walked through the busy Northern Quarter in Manchester City, passing many quirky bars, restaurants and £1 taco deals, and headed to the O2 Ritz. It is a venue that was sure to promise an amazing show. The space was filled with avid fans but it was orderly and we squeezed to the front, getting near the sound technician desk to get a more head on view. With plenty of directional space, the 02 Ritz offered everything - aside from claustrophobia. The crowd was casual and featured mostly middle-aged men, young guys in leather and girls wearing denim jackets. Cropped bobs, dip dyed hair and highlights littered the view.
At 9.15pm, the crowd roared and began applauding the fantastic Beach House onto the stage. Straight away, lead singer Victoria Legrand’s ghostly voice filled the theatre-like space and elegant instrumentals sounded out from the eerie guitar and synthesizers. As ‘Beyond Love’ started, the music widened and I felt it pulsing straight through me. The echo within ‘Wild’ was so transparent and the lyrics, “a little wine, you stole a smile…” spoke to me directly. Guitarist Alex Scally then came in straight after with a connecting low octave riff.
The song ‘Lazuli’ - another favourite of mine - was on point and completely accurate to the original record. Without a doubt this performance was a pleasure and we still had plenty more to come. ‘Sparks’ brought forth inspiring soft voices and warm organ tones started shifting the crowd. The song ‘Space’ introduced electronic pop keys and a psychedelic ambience that was mixed with wind instruments thanks to the glass guitar slide. The bass was pronounced and clear and the volume throughout slowly climbed like a steep hill as a piano sound opened into a cute continuous set of retro synth beeps. A faint guitar solo slid underneath. The synth chimed away and then Skyler Skjelset added a marching beat on the drums.
At the start of most songs, a fun casio-like preset counted in. Beginning with what sounded like a toy drum machine, chords rhymed with one another, beeping away underneath Legrand’s husky voice. It was all so elegant; the guitar, the lead synth and bass all mixing with her shadowy tones. You wouldn’t find drinks thrown or mosh pits in here. It was a true indie audience stood appreciating this live act; it was romantic art.
‘Other People’ was the highlight of the show. I found myself in complete awe. The song captured everything and truly summed up this bands sound. It was soothing, current, loveable and romantic. The lyrics, “other people want to keep in touch”, struck me and, in this moment, Legrand reminded me of St. Vincent, her voice even through each verse. She is another talented woman leading the way in the alternative rock scene.
The song ‘Wildflower’, with the lyrics “you built a city all in your head”, was both dreamy and inspiring. The notes panned from left to right. The music was pleasant and relaxing – it was slow, but in a good way. Like a lullaby, the music was soothing to the ear. I glanced at my watch and saw that there was still around an hour left; “what a performance”, I said to myself. Honestly I really didn’t want it to end.
Throughout, Legrand thanked the crowd, repeating that we were all witnessing a beautiful moment, and toasted to such a huge turnout - even to us queuing outside. Could it really get any better than this? You could tell this act had a likeness to the indie-rock band from Brooklyn, Grizzly Bear, thanks to a host of sounds, choir-like voices and the strong identity that the atmosphere produced.
Organ sounds and acoustics hummed with one another. There was an impressively loud ring; it bellowed through some kind of feedback that might have come from the stacked up guitar effects. The show counted down to the moment of the hit song ‘Myth’, which was as beautiful and charming as I expected. It was long in epic proportions - the introduction delaying, infused with a stereo reverb that echoed along to the murmur and alarm of the drums. The beginning of Scally’s guitar and percussionist Graham Hill’s cowbell dedicated the audiences’ eyes and alerted us to the peak of their show. The kick drum brought in the countdown to the song, with “If you built yourself a myth, you’d know what to give. What comes after this, momentary bliss” drifting in. The solo and keys finally combined to fuse this romantic farewell.
I could listen to the start of the song ‘She’s So Lovely’ on repeat. It drones and holds on to you. I would liken the sounds from Scally on guitar to that of Band of Horses and Caveman. Legrand then picks up a shiny white and sunburst-coloured guitar (it looked like a Fender Jazzmaster) and played a bass line, adding rhythm to the song. There were many different sounds; it was a constant sonic buffet. As she spoke the words “closer now”, I thought to myself that I hadn’t heard a voice so organic and husky before. ‘1037’ began with the same toy-sounding drum machine and a casio keyboard chord arpeggiated. With such a warm bass synth the melody hid behind a lovely lead of polyphonic chords in a soft-edged shape that was easy on the ears. As Legrand hummed, the guitar would come in and out with this tremolo effect; the hall reverb added to the choir-like church feeling.
‘Bluebird’ kept the same fuzzy synth as in ‘1037’. Think Grizzly Bear’s ‘Colorado’ mixed with the familiar sounds of London Grammar and the electronic sounds that Metronomy would produce. Songs from Beach House’s fifth studio album, Depression Cherry, were the favourites throughout this wonderful set-list. The outro ‘Irene’ was powerfully electric and the crowd were roaring. There was a real force at hand during the heaviest track of the night. Outstretched and overdriven, the lyrics grew louder with “It’s a strange paradise” being repeated over and over.
If you haven’t got plans for Halloween, then make seeing Beach House one. They have two shows at O2 Brixton this weekend on the 30th and 31st of October. If you can’t find a reseller ticket, definitely check out their abundance of music on SoundCloud. Each album is a serious piece of mesmerising work. The albums ‘Bloom’ and ‘Depression Cherry’ will definitely steal your sense of time as you fall into a trance of peace. Their brand new album ‘Thank You Lucky Stars’ is also out now and available to download on iTunes or buy from Amazon.
Words and Photography: Luke Cole