Let’s face it, the idea of Beirut the band is outrageous. Accordions, tubas, cornets, seventeen other instruments you’ve never heard of, and NO GUITAR…all on stage at once, playing music for a crowd of kids under 30. Who can say why we love Zach Condon’s aural love letters to the places we’ll rarely visit? It’s hard to describe. The influences are wide and far reaching, carrying glimpses of German beer halls on the backs of Bulgarian serenades. And when you listen, you can easily become one of Condon’s troubadours, ready to spin like a gypsy and shake a tambourine if you only had one.
Odds are you love Beirut too. They have an amzing ability to make a building full of posturing hipster youthfuls close their eyes and imagine they’re waltzing with Matilda. The Wounded Jukebox had the recent opportunity to be one of those dreamers during their show at Bogart’s in Cincinnati, Ohio. The band (Perrin Cloutier on accordion, Paul Collins on bass, Ben Lanz on trombone, Nick Petree on drums and Kelly Pratt on horns) is in the middle of their tour showcasing the songs off their new record, The Rip Tide, which is a giant celebratory smile to all the old familiar things from home. It cues a subtle but dynamic change in the music style for the group, demonstrating how much life has to give when you plant some roots, something Zach Condon hasn’t done much since he was 19.
Let it be known, there is absolutely nothing bad about a Beirut concert, and you should dowse your fears and see them right away. They sound fantastic, if not better live, and the sound of a triple horned, accordian appendeged, drum decked battalion blasts any sort of worry clean off ya. Every one I met was so happy, and ready to tell me about their mothers and the neat hats they were wearing, and give me advice on how to take better pictures of the bands when the red lighting was glaring and no flash was allowed.
Condon and company showed no signs of tour fatigue, stepping onto the stage, saying hello, and entering right into a bare version of “Scenic World” that sounded much like the original version off the Lon Gisland EP. Then they exploded into Zapotec’s “The Shrew”, casting light onto the drum set for the first time. And then they played “Elephant Gun”, and my night was complete. I think I could have left after that song and been quite happy. One can never have enough “Elephant Gun”, like a desert you could eat forever.
The rest of the night became an ecstatic blur of singing refrains and shining brass, where I became completely unaware of the time and how much I had to pee, and caught the feeling of the crowd around me and simple sang and swayed. Often I try to understand what the band’s experience is, looking out at a crowd of people staring back at you. In the case of that night’s show, I know they only saw smiles. What a time!
Surprisingly, Beirut visited a lot of their older catalogue during the concert, performing the underrated “Carousels” and “Postcards from Italy.” And at the end of it all, they gave the crowd a treat, playing a wonderful cover of the Hawk and a Handsaw’s “Serbian Cocek.” Catch the entire set list and pictures from the show, which included opening band Ramesh, below!
Beirut set-list at Bogart’s/Nov. 11, 2011
Postcards from Italy
A Sunday Smile
Port of Call
After the Curtain
My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille
The Gulag Orkestar