I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Beirut; five…maybe six times? And I always end up saying the same thing after: Beirut is a band that is better seen live than heard on record. That’s not to say that they aren’t absolutely breath taking on record. I’ve listened to their latest release Gallipoli almost nonstop since its release, but it’s when you hear the band live, with all the nuances of the brass section harmonizing together, that you truly begin to appreciate what a great band they are and how incredibly gifted they are as musicians.
Another thing I’ll say is that the opening act at a Beirut concert will be an eclectic, genre bending, out of the ordinary band. South Florida-based group Helado Negro were no exception to this, as they delivered an outrageous set that never seemed to settle into a groove. Frontman Helado Negro careened through moments of ultra mellow spoken word, moody atmospheric instrumentals, and funked out sensual and seductive jams. It was a lot to process in a brief thirty-ish minute set and I think the majority of the crowd chose instead to meander, prattle, and seek refreshments, at least from my vantage point. It can be a challenge to be captivating as an opening act, especially when the vibe you’re putting out isn’t easily digestible in tiny little capsules for the masses to ingest, but I’d venture to say that Helado Negro piqued the interest of the crowd members whose musical taste often strays from the beaten path.
As per usual, frontman Zach Condon had little to say in terms of small talk between songs, Beirut songs tell enough stories in themselves; opening with “When I Die” and “Varieties of Exile” off of their latest release Gallipoli. To be quite honest, Beirut could have played Gallipoli in its entirety, cover to cover and I would have been content, that’s how much I’m into this album… just hook me up to an IV please. Alas it was a varied, career spanning set that hit basically all the classic essentials. Beirut can’t not play “Nantes,” or “Elephant Gun.” There would be rioting, and as much as it would please me to see someone get hit over the head with a ukulele, I’m happy to report those songs were played and there was no riot. Also, let’s face it… a Beirut crowd rioting would be about as violent as a pillow fight between two people with muscular dystrophy. Anyways, a mellow crowd doesn’t mean an un-energized crowd and the set was greeted with fervent applause and ardour.
I think this point bears repeating. You need to experience Beirut live to truly understand what they are all about. The albums are just foreplay, really really good foreplay, but seeing them live is truly sealing the deal. These words won’t do it justice, I’m fucking telling you people, next time Beirut is in town go see the show, I’ll see ya there.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy