Published Aug 03, 2011Upon hearing Beirut, one can't help but be swept into a whimsical world composed of street-side cafes and strolls through European avenues. At least that was Zach Condon's intention with 2007's The Flying Club Cup. During his career, the New Mexico native has successfully introduced Western audiences to the beauty of his Eastern European-inspired music, and amidst showcasing the band's talents at a variety of festivals this summer, Beirut have been leaving a trail of sold-out shows in their wake, including two stops at Toronto's Phoenix.
Local multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett began the evening by displaying his awe-inspiring ability to create intricate musical layers on his own. Those experiencing Pallett live for the first time will find it difficult to believe one man can orchestrate such a lush sound and will be left respecting his masterful use of looping technology and innovative violin technique. Having opened with a Beirut cover, Pallett proved his sonic compatibility to the headlining act, making it evident that their choice of support was perfectly complementary.
Beirut emerged on stage and with the first accordion note immediately evoked feelings of European holidays in the summer sun. With no shortage of brass solos, the six-piece ensemble have made instruments such as the French horn, tuba and xylophone not only accessible in modern indie music but a vital differentiation from the band's contemporaries. Clad in unassuming clothing and with minimal spectacle, Beirut had no need for attention-grabbing stage antics. Condon's musical compositions held enough magnetism to mesmerize the audience, inciting additional reaction each time a song calls for all of the brass instruments to play together.
On multiple occasions Pallett joined the band onstage, contributing his violin to add extra dimension to the already abundant sonic landscape. The band moved briskly through their set, and although not necessarily acknowledging the audience that often, the sheepish grin that appeared on Condon's face after each bout of applause was enough to cement the enjoyable exchange between patron and performer throughout the evening. Towards the end of the set, the band elevated the evening's energy with "My Night with a Prostitute from Marseille" from Condon's electro-infused Realpeople project. After returning for a three-song encore, which managed to induce an adventurous couple of audience members to climb atop a side speaker and dance, the show came to an end, leaving final song "Gulag Orkestar" etched into the minds of many.