Photo by MARK LIKOSKY
Under the oppressive hair-frizzing humidity of midsummer in Philadelphia, swarms of indie music blog readers dressed in overalls and pinstripes filed into the massive Tower Theater for, yes that’s right, a fully seated show. But whether it was this heat, or astrological patterns like the approaching lunar eclipse and beginning of Mercury’s retrograde, a calm head-rolling evening felt like the perfect way to absorb every frequency of energy this Baltimore duo had brought with them to Upper Darby.
After a charming and surprisingly comedic opening set from fellow Baltimore artist, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, the room went full dark in preparation for the comparatively far-reaching seriousness and intensity of Beach House’s keyboard-anchored wall of sound. The lights soon rose enough to illuminate the silhouettes of vocalist-keyboardist Victoria Legrand, guitarist Alex Scally, and a third dimension of percussion on the drums. But while lighting was second only to the music itself in terms of what it contributed to the audience experience, it never once shone upon Legrand’s face.
Instead, bright white spotlights sliced through and across the audience like some mega lightsaber, all the while with live video projections of Legrand’s hands at the keyboard on the background screen. Dressed in what appeared to be some sort of black latex trench coat, Legrand occupied the focal point at centerstage with a wide-legged power stance paired with dramatic hair whips at the exact right beat of the electronically elongated rhythms.
For all the sonic power in the layered foundations of a Beach House song, especially in the newer songs “Lemon Glow” or “Drunk in LA,” it felt relaxingly easy to breathe during their live renditions, as if the band had evolved low, heavy notes into ones that could lift and float the listeners that they entrapped with their synthesized hooks. Along with another track off of their new album 7, “Pay No Mind,” and “Space Song” from 2015’s Depression Cherry, Beach House rode the waves of a sequence of songs until they reached an ultimate crest in a completely ethereal delivery of “Elegy to the Void.”
Emphasizing stage effects like the monochromatic displays of psychedelia or green starlight helped Beach House create more than just a concert, but a spiritual experience that would’ve brought the room to its knees had we all been standing. In her own deja-vu moment midway through the evening, Legrand shared with the crowd that she had first been to the Tower Theater at age fourteen as an audience member, commenting on how the unpredictable and inexplicable mysteries of human life and pattern continue to amaze her. Despite the omniscient quality of her Nico-esque contralto, Legrand remains gratefully awestruck by the fame it continues to bring her.
Ending in an encore with “Dive,” that finally brought the crowd to its feet, Beach House accelerated to the close as if they never had any intention of stopping. The bright strobing lights flooded the entire room as the audience rippled in a long-awaited dance of twisting and deep head-bobbing. In a time when large concerts like this are increasingly more commercialized in Las-Vegas-style entertainment, Beach House found a way to transcend this characterization to give a performance the prioritized spirituality over materiality. And for that, we can thank our lucky stars. — SOPHIE BURKHOLDER