Four years ago, Beach House played a show at the Baltimore DIY space G-Spot, and the audience talked through most of it.
The crowd seemed more interested in conversation than the hazy dream pop played by singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally.
Much has changed since then.
Last night, a sold-out crowd stood rapt inside the 9:30 Club, mouthing the words and gently swaying along with Beach House's dark rhythms.
Camera phones snapped pictures of the minimalist set design: A few rectangular boxes with horizontal slats in front, like wooden palettes stood upright. Behind them, large fans slowly cut through an artificial fog -- very "Blade Runner."
On stage, Beach House likes to keep one foot in the shadows. Colorful lights beamed from overhead and behind, but often, Legrand, Scally and drummer Dan Franz were barely more than silhouettes. In photos, they've begun to look away or hide their faces, as if to hide or distance themselves from their music. Meanwhile, their sound has become bigger and more propulsive.
They came on strong last night, opening with "Wild," perhaps their heaviest song to date. Like their latest album, "Bloom," their set list was front-loaded, with "Norway," "Other People" and "Lazuli" among the first six songs. They settled down a bit for "Silver Soul" and the sparse but wistful "On the Sea."
Most of the roughly 90-minute show drew from 2010's "Teen Dream" and "Bloom," released this past May.
Live, Scally pulls double duty, playing guitar as well as bass pedals; Beach House also uses backing tracks and a drum machine. Scally has mastered the art of the rhythm guitar solo; his occasional runs are never showy, and fit well into the rest of the mix.
Legrand kept her ashy voice cloaked in reverb, which has a great effect but also blunted some of the words and melodies. If you didn't already know the lyrics, you weren't going to learn them last night. While Legrand hung onto a few low notes too long, she could sing this sentence and make it sound seductive.
The arrangements didn't vary much from Beach House's albums, but they really punched "The Hours." With "Irene," the last of their three encore songs, they went too far: Franz's snare drum blew out the rest of the mix.
Beach House didn't have much to say for the first few songs, but Scally and Legrand eventually warmed up. Scally took an informal poll of the crowd, asking who there was over the age of 50 (a few screams), 40 (a few more), 30 (now we're getting somewhere) and 20 (aha!).
"You never know," Scally said at one point. "Every time could be the last."
Let's hope it wasn’t last night. They've been on the road since early May, and their tour continues through November, crisscrosses Europe and the States -- but has no Baltimore dates. The most popular band in Baltimore hasn't played a show in Baltimore all year.
While representatives from their label, Sub Pop, promise a gig is in the works (early 2013 is the new time frame), that's incredibly disappointing for Baltimore music fans.
Let's hope Beach House plays here soon. We deserve a show as dark and delightful as this one.