Last night, the line of people waiting to enter Warehouse Live for the Beirut show was an opening act of its own. Alongside Captain America, Waldo, Aladdin, and The Situation, we made our way into the suddenly festive confines of Warehouse Live to see Sante Fe, New Mexico native Zach Condon and his Beirut brainchild.
We'd seen Beirut this summer at Free Press Summerfest -- a performance we considered among our favorites of the weekend. Naturally, we were eager to catch Condon and his six-person band in a smaller, non-fest atmosphere, too. While last night's show was held in Warehouse Live's larger Ballroom space, it could nearly have been held in its smaller adjacent Studio room; the crowd size was decent, but nowhere near full.
"Thank you for spending your Halloween with us," Condon said, welcoming the crowd.
Beirut are currently on tour in support of their third album, 2011's The Rip Tide; however, the band chose to open with "Scenic World," a revisit to their 2006 debut, Gulag Orkestar.
Beirut appeared unlike any "typical" indie-rock band early on, positioned along the stage like some sort of troubadouresque lineup. The band included a horn section of a trombone, tuba, and trumpets, and an accordion player and pianist. Condon traded off between playing the trumpet and ukelele.
Also solidified within Beirut's first moments was their sound -- they are an eclectic grab-bag of cultural influence, including Tejano, Balkan and Eastern European notes. And while Beirut crams members and instruments onstage, they do so tastefully, which was most refreshing to witness; instruments aren't included for inclusion's sake, rather, they are artfully incorporated, together crafting a distinct, cross-cultural sound.
The set spanned a relatively even mix of Beirut's catalog. While older tracks like "Nantes" and "A Sunday Smile" were well-received, new material like "Port of Call" also translated particularly well live.
"This is fun," Condon remarked toward the end of the set, much to the crowd's delight. "We should do this more often," he continued, before closing out the set with Gulag's "Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)."
After a short break, Condon returned to the stage solo, starting the encore with another Gulag track, "The Penalty." Afterward, the band rejoined him, cheerfully throwing out handfuls of Halloween candy to the crowd and closing out their set with the same wall-of-sound with which they commenced it -- via a lineup of strong, unifying, toreador-like horns, like a sort of coups de grace to their short but oh-so-solid hour-long set.
Personal Bias: Pro-Beirut and pro-Warehouse Live sound and lighting.
The Crowd: True, knowledgeable Beirut fans. Mostly 30-somethings and costume-clad 20-somethings. (Our favorite costume spotted was Max from Where the Wild Things Are.)
Overheard in the Crowd: Someone near us on the patio was listing all the Halloween specials they were missing on TV in order to be at the show.
Random Notebook Dump: Not a single sexy nurse in the crowd, and thank God for that.
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Scenic World The Shrew Elephant Gun Vagabond Postcards From Italy The Concubine Santa Fe Sunday Smile East Harlem The Akara Nantes Port of Call Cherbourg Goshen After the Curtain
Mount Wroclai (Idle Days) The Penalty My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille The Gulag Orkestar