Beirut @ The Forum, 10/01/2012
One of the first things you notice when you go into the Forum is the architecture: a classically themed theatre with a blue light roof, giving the illusion that the venue is in fact outdoors; a really beautiful , charming and unexpected scene for someone new to the venue. Once I stopped gawking and turned towards the various tartans and plaid-clad people with shaved sides and meticulously-placed fringes, I remembered I was here for an indie favourite and not for an operetta.
Starting off the night were Melbourne’s Pikelet, with lead singer/founder Evelyn Morris welcoming us to the event and getting straight into the music. The set was really solid, with enough variance between the synth- and bass-driven songs to keep the crowd occupied. Most of the tunes were from their previous album but a couple were new, including one about a dead cat and another about being rejected after the Apocalypse – you know, staple musical references. Unfortunately Morris’s voice was washed out fairly often and over time the crowd became a tad restless, but that is when they brought out the big guns. Tarquin Manek put down his bass and reached for the clarinet while synth player Shags Chamberlain got serious and took off his pony print cardigan to wrangle the audience back in for a strong finish.
When Beirut lead singer Zach Condon and company got on stage the excitement was palpable. With a curt hello the band went straight into it. I struggle to think if I have seen a tighter set, with the band churning out each song so well, adamantly trying to do what they are there for – to perform for their fans. The sheer volume of their back catalogue that they actually played was a great surprise, too. Each time I thought they played the crowd favourite, another song started that kept the momentum going or surpassed expectations. “Elephant Gun” and “Nantes” created a surge of interest in the onlookers, steadily going into some of their newer material such as “Santa Fe” and “East Harlem” laced with some of their older pieces and a quip or two (for example, Condon commenting on the scar on his face. The moral of the story: do not try to shave while inebriated). Throughout the set there were instrument changes, all but the drummer changing from different horns to clarinet to xylophone to piano to bass to accordion, moving around the stage with limited space yet it only took ten seconds before another song began.
Once the faux-encore was over and done with (why is that a staple of every gig now? Have people forgotten what an encore actually is?) Condon went back on stage to woo us with a solo performance on his electric ukulele before being joined by the band for three more songs which were purely instrumental. Despite there being no vocals it was the most pleasant and captivating moment of the evening. The only thing that broke the crowd’s gaze was the strange fellow who took off his shoe and pretended he was going to throw it on stage, as well as the odd gentlemen who decided to do a combination of grinding and belly dancing, but they were kind of mesmerising in their own way, too.
Then it ended. Just as brief as they were with their introduction, they bid adieu – for good this time.
Overall, you could not find a better way to start a year of music than to see Beirut, a band so dedicated to do their best on stage for everyone looking on. To those who could not make it this time around: do not worry, they will be back soon enough.
by Mason Smith
(Photo of Zach Cordon via Wikipedia)