“It’s hard to imagine how far we’ve come to here from Santa Fe, New Mexico,” proclaimed Beirut singer/trumpeter Zach Condon, before the band itself clapped to thank the audience.
It was a genuine “oh my god, I can’t believe it, we’ve never been this far away from home” moment for Beirut – though of course they have been further – and it was poignant.
On this, the last night of the band’s North American tour, the audience arose, beaming, as if in a pre-emptive post-gig ovation, and swelled forward to the stage that they had previously been shooed away from by security guards. In Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre – a venue both beautiful and featured in episodes of Fringe – so much love filled the room for this oddball band who have made tubas and accordions and trumpets and ukeleles cool again. Even before the Great Swell, two women fans danced and flounced up and down the aisles like it was May Day.
It wasn’t the first time this happened for Beirut – at Field Day Festival in London, England, last month, I watched as dozens of people at the back of the field during Beirut’s set, broke out into spontaneous ballroom, folk and goofy dancing circles that fanned out across the grass. You can watch that clip here. Beirut makes you want to slip into an 18th century Russian love story, with, err, some shots of tequila instead of vodka, and plenty of reckless abandon.
And the music? Majestic. That’s it, really. With such a heavy reliance on a sound that blends mariachi, eastern European folk and B&W film romance, Beirut’s songs sometimes veer into samey but that’s really, really alright: whether they’re playing a massive festival or a beautiful theatre, you can’t deny the impact of two trumpets (Condon and Kelly Pratt) blasting alongside cute guy (Ben Lanz) wearing a tuba or tooting a trombone, while Condon pats out the beat or belts out with conviction.
And when a sound is put forth by bandmembers (notably Perrin Cloutier on accordion, Paul Collins on bass and Nick Petree on drums) who are smiling for much of the set, it’s a joyous sound indeed. In fact, you couldn’t wipe the toothy grin off of Petree’s face. Nor on ours, really. Look at my happy face below* with the setlist, given to me by Ben Lanz.
(And for purists who want to know what came after The Akara, it was Nantes, Santa Fe, After the Curtain, My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille, with an encore of The Penalty – Condon alone on a uke – Forks and Knives and Gulag Orkestar. A bit of a short set length-wise but Beirut made up for it in depth.)
“This has to be the best show of the tour,” said Condon towards the end, without a trace of suck-up, and we believed him because it kind of felt that way. \m/
(*Sorry for the iPhone pics, friends, our media passes weren’t approved.)
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