WASHINGTON, DC -- Asked once in an interview about the band's name, Beach House's Alex Scally likened it to a total escape from the every day. "It's not really a vacation," he said, "[V]acation for me is when you go away, but you're still thinking about all the things you've left behind." Beach house is when you "[go] off to a different world."
Playing the last show of a year-long tour, the band did its name justice on Saturday night, carrying the packed 9:30 Club to the otherworldly. Ethereal, sonorous, soulful -- Beach House granted the kind of rare deliverance whose power extends beyond the fleeting relief itself.
Standing silhouettes against white cloth pyramids, the musicians gently opened with "Gila," a slower track with a moody, self-assured melody. Victoria Legrand's careful elongations lured the audience towards her, a gradual seduction, her head bowed.
The evening was mostly devoted to Teen Dream, the band's third album that met rave reviews last year. "Walk in the Park" got the crowd swaying to a casual pop tune with compelling repetitions. Especially persuasive came the last third of the song, with Legrand relentlessly crooning, "More, you want more," a gorgeous, deliberate build-up that then slowly fades. The strong opening turned out to be mere preamble, however, once the breathless rush of "Norway" set the stage backdrop aglow. Small white lights suddenly burst into flickers as the percussion exploded into dizzying vocals; a firmament of stars danced to Legrand's soaring exhales, and the audience surged.
They kept their arrangements minimalist, with simple guitar lines and steady drum beats lending underlay to Legrand's husky vocals. Masters of build-up, the group teasingly heightened their escalations and intensified their resolves, slowing down at all the right moments enough to give notes their full due.
After visiting some older pieces, the band nailed an unexpected high point of the night with "Used to Be." A rhythmic thumping accompanied by decisive chords and a playful tune for the first half, the song then crescendos to Legrand's smooth and wistful lulls. "Coming home, any day now," she hushed, "any day now" -- soft, insistent, and laden with yearning. Sustained for over a minute, the single line drew out Legrand's voice at its most raw and tender, with a slight quiver. The moment encapsulated what Beach House does best more generally: capture an aching beauty that brims but never spills over. Ordinarily a track that lends Teen Dream continuity, "Used to Be" on Saturday traversed to the transcendent.
Ensconcing haze intensified the hypnosis, and the band closed the night with a triumphant encore. Looking through the smoke, you couldn't help but wonder for how long such precious refuge might linger. The audience glowed under the beaming lights, and the final notes hovered.
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