Last Night: Vampire Weekend And Beach House At Verizon

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Photos by Mark Britain
Vampire Weekend, Beach House
Verizon Wireless Theater
October 7, 2010

It's hard to quantify a show featuring two of the darlingest indie darlings the indie-darling machine has ever invented back-to-back in a non-festival setting. These events don't happen often, because parity in pop music is at an all-time high, and bands with even a nominal amount of success can often headline tours that help take them to the top of the Pitchfork conversation.

It has become commonplace for headliner types to reach out to the local acts of City X to open up before their grand entrance, which made Thursday night's Beach House/Vampire Weekend show both confusing and exhilarating.

Confusing because shouldn't a band with the musical chops of Beach House be, from now on, always the opened-for and not the opener? For more than a few years, a ticket to a Beach House show has been one of the harder ones to come by, and for good reason.

Lead vocalist Victoria Legrand is arguably one of the most compelling, and most important, voices in rock. Along with her almost singular ability to sing grand orchestras all by herself, she has reached a point in her career where her command of the pathos of performance is almost unmatched by her peers.

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Legrand's confidence in her own mastery of the Brian Eno-like feel of her songs, set within the always-important context of what it means to be cool by feigning apathy inside of an obvious passion for a craft, was evident Thursday night. Beach House is the perfect amalgamation of what indie rock is supposed to be: Meaningful and beautiful, without forcing meaning and beauty on the listener (or viewer).

It seemed that, through the first three songs or so, the audience at Verizon was there to treat Beach House as they would any number of opening bands - as the background music to night-texting. But as the show went on, the momentum picked up and the realization that "Hey, this isn't really an opening band, bro; that girl can really sing" set in, and things finally started feeling right.

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It's almost impossible to fully grasp how Beach House does what they do without seeing them perform up close. They take a decades-old, scholarly understanding of being definitively musical and couch it in a paradoxical air of minimalism, somehow making two guitars, an electric organ, a keyboard and some very muted drums sound like calculus. It's quite astounding.

We got, for the most part, a fair sampling of why Beach House's Teen Dream will go down as one of the best records of the decade: Songs like "Walk in the Park," "Norway," "Zebra," and the absolutely spellbinding "Silver Soul" and "Ten Mile Stereo" set this band apart from other male/female acts because of their ability to treat their art as art itself, and nothing more.

It was somewhat disappointing that more songs from Devotion weren't included in the set - though "Gila" almost made up for the omission - but circumstances are circumstances, we suppose.

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