Beach House, the cinematic slow-pop duo from Baltimore, tends to inspire extreme reactions for such pretty music. On one hand, there are the rabid Beach House devotees, a cluster of romantic, long-haired women and dapper men (probably the kind who would have been really into twee pop in that era). This camp gets swept away in frontwoman Victoria Legrand’s almost Nico-esque mid-range, and guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally’s reverb-heavy dreamy guitar pickings. On the other hand are people (a lot of dudes, let’s say), who find the group’s oeuvre to be one long snooze.
Last night’s show at the Fillmore Miami Beach, the band’s first headlining performance in Miami, proved that there’s a lot of merit in the former, and even a little in the latter. Beach House’s only previous appearance in town was at the same venue, when they opened for Vampire Weekend in October 2010. As openers, they played a set that was smooth and transporting, but truncated – there wasn’t a lot of room for digging deep into the catalog. As headliners, last night they certainly over-delivered for fans who bought tickets, playing some 17 songs over nearly an hour and a half.
They mostly proceeded exactly as you would expect. This is a band that loves feeling, mood, and emotion over theatrics or a lot of flair. Legrand spent most of the show, as she did during her previous Fillmore gig, near the back of the stage, obscured except for the occasional flair from a pair of vertical light towers behind her. Scally and the group’s touring drummer, Graham Hill, likewise stuck to their own, recessed corners, and among them they only uttered a few sentences. “We have a new album coming out,” Legrand said at one point, almost as if fulfilling a promotional requirement for the upcoming record, Bloom, due out May 15. “But that’s boring to talk about.”
This was just as well. The show seemed to gently unspool from the set opener, the new album’s title track, creating a mood that you could toss all kinds of adjectives at: ethereal, nostalgic, and so on. For fans, the effect was spell-binding with Legrand’s voice and Scally’s playing sounding almost as nearly perfect live as they do on albums. For the Beach House haters, though, the unfurling of the track list would have only served to confirm their distaste. No, the songs don’t vary much in tempo, nor do the members themselves try to distract with theatrics or other corny tricks.
And much of the set list here came from Bloom, which proved that it would be more of the same – gauzy stuff that is impressively large-sounding for such a small number of musicians. Actually, coming from a longtime Beach House fan, the only real disappointment with their set list was the lack of material from their debut album, Devotion. Not even “Gila,” which enjoyed a resurgence after it got sampled on the Weeknd’s “Loft Music.” It seems we should probably all file away our hopes for ever hearing early “hits” like “Heart of Chambers” live in Miami.
The only sour spot of the evening, really, was the opening set by Zomes, the alter ego of Asa Osborne, former Lungfish guitarist. His old band created some of the most explosive, emotive stuff in the post-hardcore scene of the late ’80s and ’90s, but now he’s gone, unsurprisingly, the solo electronic route. Unfortunately, his material, which is droning, often atonal synth music, isn’t really appropriate for a large stage. His set of turgid keyboard playing all plodded along at the same rhythm (or perhaps lack thereof), and is better suited for a tiny bar or maybe a white-cube art gallery. If anything, though, he accomplished the job of an opener – getting the audience really excited for the main event.