Beach House brings dream pop to the Opera House

I have been living in Sydney for most of the past decade. During that time, one of the best things that has happened to live music was the opening up of the Sydney Opera House to contemporary music. Traditionally, music at the Opera House was confined to classical music. Nowadays, it has become a pinnacle for live performance of contemporary music, regardless of the genre.

On Wednesday, Beach House – comprised of Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand – a relatively well known dream-pop duo from Baltimore graced the stage. For the uninitiated, their sound has been described as ‘a brand of low-key, psychedelic dream pop featuring swirling organs, fuzz guitar, and ghostly vocals’. Sonically, they appear to draw heavily on bands such as Galaxie 500, and vocally somewhere between Mazzy Star and Cat Power.

The evening's first song, Levitation from their 2015 album Depression Cherry set the tone nicely. Legrand’s vocal’s were shaky for the first few seconds but soon settled into its natural ethereal state as she sang ‘you should see /there’s a place I want to take you’. The band – two guitars and percussion – built rich layers of swirling guitars and bass around her voice, accompanying but never overpowering it.
Image credit: Shawn Brackbill

Image credit: Shawn Brackbill

The gig meandered through the band’s rich catalogue, reaching all the way back to their 2006 self titled album. This was perhaps a result of the band’s innovative approach to setlist creation, which is determined by a feature on their website that allows fans to vote for 3 songs they most want to hear. Highlights of the night included ’Silver Soul’ and ‘PPP’ and ‘Sparks’, each of which showcased the band's ability to seamlessly move from dreamy to outright psychedelic. Midway through the gig, and with encouragement of the band, a strong cohort of audience members to move to the aisles to bust their moves, which is somewhat of a rarity for the Concert Hall.

Gigs of the electronic variety are often difficult to execute in the concert hall, where the acoustics are not great. But when done right, the results can be stellar. Tonight was one such night and a definite win for dream pop.

My only gripe with what was overall an enjoyable gig was the excessive use of strobe lighting. To my mind, a lower key approach would have better suited to the sonic textures. However, my plus one was a huge fan of the lights, so each to their own.

Beach House are also playing in Sydney on 7 February as part of St Jerome's Laneway Festival. Their latest albums, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars are available through Sub Pop

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