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Beirut Review Hi-Fi Brisbane Thurs 12th Jan

When last in the country back in 2008, New Mexico’s Beirut left behind dripping notes of wanderlust and longing through lead singer Zach Condon’s wistful lyrics and reminiscence of far away places. Their latest offering, “The Rip Tide”, has found Beirut to have matured into a more pop orientated sound than the previous foreign music influenced “Flying Cup Club”.

Beirut

Flippantly categorised as indie rock without relying on instrumental clichés of the ‘movement’, their choice of instruments allow Beirut a complex and dynamic performance delivered with romantic velvety baritones and the sweet innocence of a simple ukulele. 

Now back on a world tour to promote their new album “The Rip Tide”, Beirut brought their mariachi style brass ensemble to Brisbane for a special show at the HiFi in WestEnd. With unbrushed hair and my grandmas sweater vest I was sure to fit right in with the underplayed stylings of the hipster indie set who crowded outside the venue on a cool Thursday night.

Melbourne four-piece Pikelet were already playing to a full house as the shoulder to shoulder crowd waited politely, shifting and stirring with anticipation. Playing head swirling songs from their Australian Music Prize nominated album “Stem”, front-woman Evelyn Morris’ vocals and breakdowns were supported by sweeping synth horns and rolling drums a liken to a teddy bear’s picnic on LSD. “I’m not under any illusions, I know you’re here to see Beirut!” she joked before launching into another psychedelic synth pop driven fusion.

Then what seemed like forever (assumedly to set up instruments that outnumber the six musicians 2-1), Beirut broke into the bright and relucent “Scenic World”, as the south of the border brass announced their arrival, the fans (who seemed to have gone straight past to devotees) cheered animatedly and boldly. After an accordion dripping “East Harlem”, Condon joked with the crowd that their trumpet player Kelly Pratt “plays the theme song to Jurassic Park at sound check!” to which Pratt demonstrated and sent laughs around the room. “Sunday Smile” was next, showing Condon’s mournful vocals to be closer to a young Rufus Wainwright rather than the often compared Win Butler.

Beirut closed their set with their current single “Santa Fe”, Condon’s love letter to his hometown. An upbeat sing-along erupted as the brass instruments they played married together and exploded into the venue.

Lights dimmed and while the crowd enthusiastically stomped their feet and begged for an encore, Zach re-appeared alone, armed with his ukulele and strummed out a heartbreaking “The Penalty”. For all the bright energy that Beirut displayed during their remarkable performance, it seemed that this was Zach Condon at his most honest, his most haunted.

Lastly, Beirut broke into the grand and urgent “Gulag Orkestar”, full of anguish and visions of mariachis walking off into the sunset, proving that Beirut have shown to be versatile young musicians who desire to punch through layers of cynicism and reserve to make a visceral emotional connection with their audience.

Martina Bailey Pitrun - AAA Backstage

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