For Beach House’s last visit to Denver in 2008 at the Hi-Dive, supporting their record “Devotion,” the band played to a meager crowd wearing all white and drenched in shifting aqua green and blue lights. The event almost felt like an underwater wedding.
Endorsing their newest (and arguably best) record, “Teen Dream,” on Wednesday was a much different affair. This time selling out the Bluebird Theater, they wore dark, casually formal wear, and the stage was decorated with strings of tinsel and shimmering, rotating silver piñatas. This could have been the booked band for the junior prom of your dreams on a space station.
Differences in Wednesday’s appearance from their last aside, one thing remained constant: no matter how or where Beach House decides to set up camp for a show, they strive to play to the visually imaginative nature of their music.
The Bluebird handled this task nicely. The sound system (despite a couple of painful shrieks of feedback) did justice to the full organ blasts of Victoria Legrand and the aluminum sound of Alex Scally’s guitar. Deep blues and purples illuminated the band mysteriously from below. The larger hall allowed the heavy reverb saturating just about every tone emanating from the band to ring out into a distance that seemed miles long.
The venue felt deep and cavernous yet magically intimate. The dramatically bigger crowd connected with the band, recycling and reciprocating its energy, even causing Legrand to comment on the good vibes and for Scally to dub the area just below the stage the “sway pit.” Beach House simply belonged at the Bluebird Theater Wednesday night.
Like a modern day Stevie Nicks, Legrand was utterly bewitching. Through her expressive hands, shrugging legato and confident delivery, she entranced the audience with songs like “Norway” and “Zebra.” Her mop of long wavy hair swayed with her subtle bounce, and flied wildly with metal-style head-banging, heightening the drama of songs like “Heart of Chambers” and emphasizing the band’s lurching beat.
And the beat deserves a special mention. Beach House is a band that favors the ballad — a drummer’s nightmare. But Daniel Franz, on tour with the band, owned the pulse. Almost every song featured an accompanying electronic beat and tempos were absolutely locked in solid throughout the entire show, allowing songs to chug forward with a thrilling intensity, which is an amazing feat for a music that largely remains on the shy-side of 120 BPM.
Though this was only one of many sold out shows on their current tour, and though the band had already done one of those “see them before they get big” shows in Denver, there was a sense that the band is still just getting used to its recent spike in popularity. Beach House was either a small band acting big, or a big band acting small. Either way, this still felt like one of those early gems in a group’s rising career.
The unfailingly cute New Zealand solo act Bachelorette opened the show, and it’d be a crime to not mention her. Her music was largely electronic-based, but her greatest weapon was her voice, which was multi-tracked with spooky, alien-harmonies and built upon itself into impressive crescendos making for an interesting and often powerful live experience.
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Crawford Philleo is a Denver freelance writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.