Beirut took the stage in Oakland this past Monday, September 3. There was no doubt that it was going to be an amazing show, however the best word that comes to mind to describe the entire experience is nothing less then magical. Beirut’s whimsical sounds transported the crowd to another place with the help of a perfect backdrop, The Fox Theater.
The Fox Theater is impressive on it’s own, with its elaborate decor resembling an Indian temple oddly placed inside of the 1920’s building. The craftsmanship of the old theater is remarkable and absolutely an art in itself. It is easy to get lost in the intricate wall carvings and detailed ceilings, highlighted perfectly with well thought out lighting. The main floor is general admission with two levels and a few bars, the second story of the theater has assigned seating. It was a full house, however lines for the bar were scarce, and the bartenders service was quick and friendly.
On the stage, light strings fell from the ceiling, reminding you of something in-between a circus you have never been to, and a parisian summer hoedown. DJ Turf-Yard kept the crowd entertained while they gathered beers, collected their seats, or found the perfect place to settle in front of the stage.
Beirut attracted a rather interesting collection of people, mostly in their 20’s to early 30’s, ranging from college kids to band geeks to hipsters. The main floor was flooded with smiling faces, soaking up the DJ’s tunes, excited for what was to come. As I sat waiting in the photo pit I listened to all the young girls talk of how handsome Zach Condon was and of their dreams of running away with him. Each girl sharing their plan of how to win him over, while batting twitterpated eyelashes, proclaiming that they were the first to love him.
With the flicker of lights, the crowd goes wild then all of the sudden everything becomes still until you hear the quiet hum of instruments gathering. With a half smile appears Zach Condon and the words, “the lights go on, the lights go off, when things don’t feel right…” The slow build of Scenic World was the perfect start of a breathtaking set. Transported immediately to another world with the whirlwind of horns and perfectly collected beats and harmonies the crowd sang along to nearly every word. Next came The Shrew. I have never seen so many people excited about a tuba before in my life, nor have I ever seen someone as charming as Ben Lanz play one. The alluring ukulele strums of Elephant Gun snuck in, which then led to the drifty notes of Vagabond. The crowd including myself, inhaled in every last drop of Postcards from Italy. Serbian Cocek had every body moving and shaking equivalent to what you would find in a New Orleans street parade. Then The Akara played as a perfect link to The Port of Call which brought the crowd back to smiling, with arms wrapped around each other, swaying in unison. The energy was brought back up with After the Curtain Falls and then mellowed back down with The Rip Tide. Closing the set was My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille. After much call for an encore, the band returned. First Zach, alone on the ukulele playing The Penalty, and then the entire band filtered in to close out the set with Carousels and Gulag Orkestar..
Beirut looks just as expected, adorable and cool without any effort. They were dramatic and yet still seemed as if you could hang out with them with ease. Each member was smiling between songs, feeding off the audience and enjoying themselves with the appropriate amount of dance moves. Condon was a man of few words between songs, only slipping out a coy thank you intermittently. He switched back and forth between ukulele and trumpet while the other 5 captivated the crowd with a mishmash of instruments sprinkled across the stage. Perrin Cloutier traded out his accordion for keyboards, Paul Collins jumped from electric to a stand up bass, and Ben Lanz with ease gave up his trombone for a tuba, time and time again. The only member that stayed put throughout the show was drummer Nick Petree. This 6 piece could not be more exquisitely put together. They play extremely well together and are not only delightful to watch, but an excellent example of talent.
Beirut makes you feel like you are home. I am unsure how something so unexpected can turn out to feel so familiar. Somehow the marriage of notes and the charm of the band sparks something inside of you. Perhaps it is the sweet voice that whisks you away or the internal band geek lurking deep down, something about this band captivates me and I am sure I am not the only one. Their music takes you on a journey and seeing them live only enhanced the experience. I could not stop smiling throughout the entire show and most of the way home. If you have the chance to see Beirut live do not pass it up. They will make your heart explode.
Words and Photos by Melissa Uroff
For more information on Beirut visit