The Paramount - October 13, 2015 - Written by Taylor Munoz
Returning after a 4-year hiatus, Beirut have once again stolen the hearts of their listeners, long-term and brand new. Their sound is timeless: after one listen to hits such as The Ankara and A Sunday Smile, you’re suddenly taken away to undiscovered European territory in the 19th century. Front man Zach Condon has an act for producing worldly songs that stray away from the demands of new alternative music. Their new album No No No, released September 11, is a follow-up of 2011’s The Rip Tide, a melodic collection of songs about the trials and tribulations of Condon’s life. Condon, Santa Fe native, was hospitalized in 2013 in Australia due to exhaustion from extensive touring, following with a rough divorce. For 2 years, Condon recovered, found love with a Turkish woman, and rediscovered music.
Taking himself “less seriously,” Condon got back in the studio with his fellow bandmates, and thus, No No No was born. Long story short, it’s incredible. While some agree that it’s entirely different from their trademark sound, Balkan folk with a clever assortment of French horn, violins, and occasionally an accordion, there are still so many fresh sounds on No No No that keep fans and critics alike running back home.
While most songs are slower and include less percussion than on previous albums, they are still worthy of attention, especially the lyrics. Songs such as Perth, a musical story about Condon’s breakdown in Australia, and Gibraltar, a song about his divorce, are arranged in such a entrancing way that gives listeners a look into Condon’s life, while still enjoying cool and sedated rhythms, excellent piano loops, and of course, the famous horns. No No No is a step in an entirely different direction for Beirut, but only a step forward.
On October 13, Beirut headlined an almost sold out show at the Paramount with support act Julia Holter. Holter, a solo artist based out of Los Angeles, released her first studio album Tragedy in 2011, followed by 2012’s Ekstasis, and 2013’s Loud City Song. Back this year with a new album, Have You in My Wilderness, Holter joined Beirut on this leg of their tour, covering North America. Holter’s set combined songs both old and new. The sound was unique to say the least: with Holter on lead vocals and piano, her backup band was composed of a violinist, a double bassist, and a drummer, her songs were about love, the wilderness, and the sea. Her sound is comparable to Beirut’s and their sets worked well together in one show. Holter’s vocals were strong, and her band enjoyed the music they were playing, which made it enjoyable for the crowd.
When Beirut took stage, the crowd, who had previously been reserved, politely clapping between Holter’s songs, let loose. Roaring came from the pit and balcony as Condon walked on stage wearing a wrinkled grey shirt, grey jeans, and brown vans; his infamous horn in hand and a smile so big it was infectious. As they started off the set with Scenic World, a song from 2006’s debut album Gulag Orkestar, it was apparent that the night was going to be one to remember. Beirut is known for the quality of their live performances- the percussion is on point and Condon’s vocals are always strong. Song after song, they stole the hearts of the crowd, performing some of their biggest hits, Santa Fe, East Harlem, Nantes, and title track No No No off the new album. Condon continuously thanked the crowd for coming out. Horns are a huge part of Beirut’s trademark sound, and they stole the show; three horns at a time harmonized courtesy of Condon and bandmates Ben Lanz and Kyle Resnick. The sound put the crowd into a European daydream. Beirut is a band who have been playing together since 2006, and it was extremely apparent on stage. Each member was in harmony with one another. The dynamic of the band made it that much more incredible. They work incredibly well together. The entire production of the show was spectacular as well: the sound quality and lighting was entrancing; during The Rip Tide, a slower-paced melody, cool waves of blue filled the room. During In The Mausoleum, sporadic bursts of red, green, and yellow covered the crowd, pumping them up as a last gift of departure.
Beirut’s sound has evolved tremendously over the years since a 17-year-old Condon dropped out of high school and departed to Paris, where he spent a year working on his first record. This record would come to steal the hearts of many and build him a fan base so devoted that he’s even had the opportunity to play in Beirut, Lebanon, the origin of his band name. The sky is the limit for this unique assemblage. Beirut has a timeless sound that will continuously enthrall listeners time after time. With such a unique sound and dynamic, each live show is guaranteed to not be just, in the words of Condon, another night in Nantes.