Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Beach House / Sound of Ceres - Live 2018.10.02 Huxleys Neue Welt, Berlin, Germany

Artist: Beach House
Venue: Huxleys Neue Welt
Location: Berlin, Germany
Date: 2 October 2018
Opening Act: Sound of Ceres

01. Levitation
02. Wild
03. Dark Spring
04. Lazuli
05. Beyond Love
06. Wishes
07. L'Inconnue
08. 10 Mile Stereo
09. Pay No Mind
10. Sparks
11. Drunk in LA
12. Space Song
13. Girl of the Year
14. Master of None
15. Myth
16. Lemon Glow

17. Real Love
18. Dive

Sound of Ceres opened the show and immediately got weird. Their four members remained mostly motionless behind their instruments and produced an ethereal, mostly synthesized, heavily effected haze that drew strongly on Cocteau Twins and the night's headliners. The music was warm and pleasant, but not particularly captivating. The main attraction was their light show. They used a set of focused lights to generate figures of light on the center of the stage. With each song, the patterns changed and developed. The singer increasingly interacted with the lights as well and frequently played as if she were summoning the figures herself. While most of the stage was shrouded in darkness, they used fog machines, bright spotlights directed at wispy garments, and flashlights rhythmically pointed across the venue.

The weirdest element was that between some songs, two of the members enacted dramatic readings with some sound effects. The words didn't make much sense and the theatrics came off as rather cheesy and overly earnest. I didn't get the point. I'll take Golden Dawn Arkestra's focused messages of love and environmentalism any day, but this lacked clarity and intention.

Beach House also relied on an unusual light display, although it was different than what they used on their last tour. They kept the stage mostly dark, but used spotlights to periodically light the band from behind or at oblique angles. The video screen behind them occasionally showed psychedelic patterns similar to the album artwork of their latest album, 7, and their recent music videos. During a few of the songs, the screens even showed the band members. However, the cameras were pointed at their instruments and their hands without showing their complete bodies.

The band appeared as a three-piece: the two core members and drummer James Barone. Unlike the last tour, there was no bassist or additional keyboardist. Instead, there was a conspicuous use of more samples and prerecorded backing tracks. It was rarely distracting or detracting, and they've always used drum machines and some backing tracks, but it did occasionally contribute to a sense of rigidity and stiffness.

On record, Beach House presumably spend a great deal of time and focus on sounding large and dense. Their arrangements are rarely especially complex, yet they are mixed to sound full and thick without being overly compressed. It's an impressive feat that contributes to why I like them so much. On stage, they presumably try to reproduce that effect, but it's harder to do so as effectively. I've complained before that sometimes it sounds like something was missing in some of their live performances, and this time it was only exacerbated by the lack of a fourth performer. This was most noticeable at the start, when something seemed wrong with the mix. In particular, Alex Scally's guitar was too quiet.

The setlist demonstrated their standard practice of mixing old and new songs rather unpredictably, although there was still some overlap with the two shows I'd seen before. They don't have a bad song in their catalog, and they played several of my favorites alongside seven new songs. While it's hard to complain about that, I was hoping we might get something from the B-Sides and Rarities compilation released last year or some of the more obscure songs from their first two albums. I was also surprised that they didn't play anything from their previous album, Thank Your Lucky Stars (2015).

By and large, despite some minor complaints, Beach House still came across as powerful and enveloping. Their songs are often on the long side and yet they never get boring or tired. While some of the renditions felt slightly different than on record, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Some songs just had a different energy to them, and "10 Mile Stereo" and "Dive" ended with extended, noisy jams. Even if there were some occasional lapses in their wall of sound, it was easy to just get lost in the field and enjoy the experience.

Sound of Ceres: B-
Beach House: A-
B-Sides and Rarities: B
7: A-

P.S. Thanks to Alyssa!

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