beirut [2011]

Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
1 October 2011

Beirut is not fucking around.

This is no Balkan gimmickry. This is no random addition of an accordion to an indie rock band. This is some real shit. As in: accomplished musicians playing instruments that require significant training and practice.

This past Saturday night at Oakland’s Fox Theater, I observed at least one of the following on stage: accordion, trumpet, trombone, french horn, tuba, upright bass, ukulele, keyboard. (I even caught a guitar-like object.) In Beirut, Zach Condon has assembled a spectacular collection of serious musicians and presented them to an indie world that, quite honestly, could use a few more serious musicians.

You might think that all of this would have been clear from his recordings and yet, I had no idea just how great Beirut could be before Saturday night. It wasn’t until then that I truly understood how tightly the members of Beirut could play – how they could create a complex yet unified sound, how they could push the expectations for a young band.

This remarkable cohesion was nowhere more evident than in the connection between Condon and trumpet player, Kelly Pratt (also of Arcade Fire). Their vocal harmonies carried the entire set high through the air and when Condon picked up his own trumpet, the two soared even higher. Songs that, in recordings, simply ended now burst live into captivating circles of improvisation, pushing the sold-out crowd to swells of jubilation.

It was truly a magical night at The Fox. Simple yet elegant lights dipped downwards and out from above the stage, conjuring up images of a Romanian country fair or some subtle, tastefully-decorated circus. The mood was perfectly set for the lively mystical pop that is Beirut.

It is rare that I am completely blown away by a band that I thought I’d known so well – whose music I thought I knew so well. Saturday night, I was absolutely blown away. I will never again miss an opportunity to see Beirut live.