Beach House and Lawrence Arabia - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds - Gigs - Reviews - Soundblab

Beach House and Lawrence Arabia - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Pete Sykes Rating: Release Date:

It's often difficult to pinpoint that moment when a band passes from cultdom into the indie mainstream; to judge by this sold out gig, Beach House seem to have crossed that particular threshold. Whereas once you might expect their shows to be full of twee, scruffy indie kids and chin-stroking 'serious' music fans, here at Leeds' excellent Brudenell Social Club tonight there is a distinct smattering of hair-gelled, Top Man wearing lads with their impeccably dressed girlfriends. I don't mean to be snobby; it just seems incongruous at a gig by a band who tread a distinctive and esoteric path, more at home playing lush and achingly slow meditations on love and loss than crowd-pleasing pop music. But, seeing an entire room full of people bellowing "Norway-ay-ay-ay-ay!" in unison as Alex Scully and Victoria Legrand play their latest single, er, 'Norway', it's apparent that Beach House are finding a wider and more appreciative audience, who might have loved Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors last year and now have read in the NME about this new(ish), remarkable duo from the American alternative scene. There's a definite buzz about the venue as we wait for their appearance, a buzz of a type that can only be generated by a band about whom the crowd have heard lots of great things, but don't know much about.

First off, though, we are treated to the fabulously skewed classic pop of Lawrence Arabia - alter ego of New Zealand-born, London-based James Milne - and his band. Their slightly shambolic, good-natured stage presence puts a smile on everyone's faces, and their harmony-drenched, melodic pop is more than a little reminiscent of ELO and late-60s Beach Boys. It's always great to see a band whose aim is solely to entertain and bring pleasure to their audience, and on these criteria Lawrence Arabia succeed admirably.
But it's Beach House that the buzz is for and, with admirable punctuality, Victoria and Alex soon take to the stage looking impeccably cool. Victoria in particular - in black jeans and boots, and a black sweater with gold buttons - is the epitome of classic chic. They open with 'Zebra', the gorgeous first track from their recent record, Teen Dream, and the audience collectively swoons.

A few songs tonight come from their previous release, 2008's Devotion, and the intoxicatingly languid froideur of songs like 'Gila' melts in this context. But most of the material is culled from Teen Dream, a dreamy, atmospheric and delicate album that works unexpectedly well when performed live. Their records mostly use drum machines, for that lo-fi, homemade feel, but for their gigs, the band have acquired an excellent (and rather handsome) live drummer, which gives the songs added power and force and even prompts a certain amount of dancing (or, to be more accurate, energetic swaying) to occur. If the music sounds unexpectedly robust, then the band's stage presence is the opposite: Alex spends most of the set sitting down with his guitar in his lap, and Victoria is largely obscured by a mammoth desk of keyboards and synthesizers charmingly trimmed with fake white fur. Banter is kept to a minimum, but Victoria's statements that she "really love[s] this club" and wants to thank us for "being so sweet" are met with cheers and applause.

But it's the music - sumptuous, complex and vaguely inscrutable - that says it all. Victoria's singing is superb throughout, her rich contralto elevating songs like 'Better Times' and the shimmering 'Lover of Mine' from merely pretty to truly wonderful. The crowd is satisfied - not thrilled, for there are no on-stage fireworks or riotous tunes - and will go home with a warm feeling inside at having seen a superb band widening their appeal while retaining their peculiar, woozy charm.

Pete Sykes

Comments (1)

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Accurate description of the drummer as "handsome". Bravo. The rest was accurate too, but mainly this.

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