Beach House The Opera House, Toronto ON March 30

Beach House The Opera House, Toronto ON March 30
"She's so fucking hot," said a punter as he fixed a creepy stare on Beach House's singer/keyboardist, Victoria Legrand. Brazen impropriety aside, the gauche fan had hit on something, not with the comment but with the gaze: Beach House have an affinity for holding attention spans, though it has less to do with aesthetics than perfectly executed dream pop.

Three critically adored records in, the Baltimore two-piece of Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally (plus a touring drummer) have forged a near flawless live show, their syntax flirtatious and enthralling, and their delivery peppered with well-placed patter and little surprises. And Legrand is as charismatic as James Dean but, you know, a woman.

The set started hauntingly, with mallet-ed percussion and circling keys and lyrics on "Walk in the Park," while "Norway" paired disconcerting, high-end guitar twiddling with breathy vocals and thumping percussion. The band didn't stay in spooky minimalist territory for long, throwing in brief disco keys on "Used to Be" and a jaunty drum on "Better Times." "Astronaut" brooded from the outset, though vocals and melody eventually soared, not to crescendo but just high enough to tease.

Throughout, Scally's unobtrusive guitar work diversified the proceedings. "Heart of Chambers" began like Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," but underwater effects saved it from easy-listening land. Similarly, a stair-climbing guitar melody on "Take Care" melded with baroque pop synths to create an almost danceable result. Nevertheless, the spotlight remained on Legrand, who wore a number of guises, from smoky-voiced seductress on "Norway" to horse mime on "Zebra."

Compact yet satisfying, the show started austerely, layered on atmospherics and restrained whimsy, and ended cathartically care of joyous closer "10 Mile Stereo." As the aforementioned leering would attest, it was a hugely compelling affair.