Otherworldly. Ethereal. Atmospheric. This is the standard parlance applied to the dreampop band Beach House. Those terms definitely apply, but they don’t capture the “Myth”ic quality of seeing them play at the Fillmore last Tuesday. Even when you’re close enough to break into the photographer’s pit like I did (for Instagramming purposes), you’re still so far away from them. I deliberately showed up dressed as a Victoria Legrand knockoff with my long, wavy brunette hair and navy blue blazer. But I was met with a detached presence of her silhouette bound in leather that was shrouded in darkness for the first half of their set.
They played most of their latest, critically-acclaimed album, Bloom (2012), more than half of their break-out Teen Dream (2010), and one song from each of their first two albums, Devotion (2008) and Beach House (2006). The shuffled order of their set-list provided a comprehensive tour of their oeuvre’s highlights.
The surroundings were reminiscent of their music in terms of its layers. The dreamy landscape of an ever-present fog machine reflected their gradient band shirt design at the merch counter. Harp-like décor laid the backdrop for whimsical projections of ballroom dancing, walking dog feet and animations of disjointed dancing caveman drawings. And the starry background of scattered light bulbs further enhanced the fanciful scene.
Lead singer Legrand’s smokey powerhouse of a voice is the band’s sonic centerpiece. It filled the whole venue while maintaining an airiness that never blasted at the audience. For reference, my friend noted that she sounded like an eerily beautiful humpback whale when she sang her piercing shrills at full force – but, you know, in a smoother, more consistently in-tune way. Guitarist Alex Scally complemented this with his delicately-woven yet haunting riffs.
The musicians surrendered their initial detachment by progressively letting loose. The audience was finally able to see Legrand’s lovely face six songs into the concert when a light shined on it during “Walk in the Park” – which is ironic given the withholding lyrics that go, “The face that you see in the door / Isn’t standing there anymore.” Soon after, she shed her leather to reveal a gold sequin jacket, which lit her up as if her body was a source of light. She even whipped her hair back and forth during “Wishes” and busted out some sweet pop-and-lock keyboarding moves. As the show transpired, the band transitioned from merely producing sonic replicas of their recordings to playing around with notes. Sure, “Take Care” has a great build-up on the album, but that experience is very subdued in comparison to their climactic live performance. Legrand’s vocal improvisations were heightened by the shimmer of a revolving disco ball that furnished the setting with a celebratory tone.
As if this wasn’t enough to please a swagging-and-swaying mass of hipsters, the band melted hearts with their graciousness toward the crowd. Scally was like, “This is not a thing we say in every town. We love San Francisco. We did not say this last night in Vegas, although we did love the Michael Jackson pinball machine.” Then Legrand was all, “There’s a whole lotta fucking love.” When the crowd cheered for an encore, the band generously performed three more songs. Instead of inducing a sleepy reverie, this dreampop band popped dreams into reality.