“Hello Baltimore, it’s been too long,” said Beach House singer Victoria Legrand from the Lyric Opera House stage on Friday night. It was an understatement: The city’s most-known indie-rock duo hadn’t played the area since September 2010, and even then, it was an opening slot for Vampire Weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.
This was a true homecoming years in the making, and Beach House performed an 85-minute set with a confidence earned from long tours, large festival gigs and late-night TV performances. The band remains one of the best acts to come from Baltimore in the past five years.
After addressing the crowd, Beach House played “Walk in the Park” from “Teen Dream,” the 2010 breakthrough album that marked a subtle yet significant shift in the band’s scope and reach. The record’s near-universal acclaim is a main reason Beach House can sell out the Lyric nearly a year after releasing its fourth album, “Bloom.”
Bands typically shun genre labels, but Beach House and its “dream-pop” tag fit perfectly. Legrand’s half-haunting, all-beautiful voice melds with guitarist Alex Scally’s nimble guitar work. The band is a duo but tours with a drummer, who efficiently maintained the beat without working up a sweat Friday night. It all washed over the crowd wonderfully, causing fans to sway and smile.
Couples put their arms around each other, too. From my viewpoint, there wasn’t anything steamier than that — this was the Lyric — but the music made for a romantic, swoony setting. Beach House has made some of the best make-out music ever since “Teen Dream,” and they continued the trend with “Bloom.” The music is passionate, with the muscle and power to swell up and burst, as it did during “The Hours.” Legrand headbanged at her keyboard through the crescendo.
Perhaps the band’s most endearing quality is its steadfast belief in the power of music and music alone. Midway through the performance, Legrand asked the audience, many of which had their smartphones out from the opening notes, to not “take too many pictures,” recalling a sign the Yeah Yeah Yeahs recently posted at a recent New York concert.
“Just remember the actual experience is better,” Legrand said, standing in front of the stage’s lone set-piece — a mountain range of slanted, hard-edged shapes.
The band’s set, which was watched by the always-dapper director John Waters (brown plaid suit, even taller than you’d expect in person), mostly stuck to “Teen Dream” and “Bloom,” with good reason — the songs are leaps ahead of the band’s first two albums (2006’s self-titled effort and 2008’s “Devotion”).
There’s no question Legrand steers this ship, but Scally’s performance was, rather quietly, the most charming of the night. Seated next to a wall of three amplifiers, Scally bounced in his seat like a sugar-fed child doing his best to stay seated. (At times, he failed.) His unglamorous but effective background vocals contrasted Legrand’s voice nicely.
Right before 11:30 p.m., an earnest Legrand addressed the crowd again.
“This is something you feel like you never deserve,” she said. “We love this city. We’ve lived here a long time.” She thanked local indie-rockers Lower Dens for joining them, along with Yo La Tengo, the show’s special guest. Like Kanye West bringing out Jay-Z in Chicago, Beach House played proud host while paying respect to its elders. With a tone of disbelief, Legrand was clearly honored Yo La Tengo would come to Baltimore for the duo.
And then, for the first song of the band’s triumphant encore, Beach House played fan-favorite “10 Mile Stereo.” As the audience and band beamed with pride, Legrand dug into the chorus: “It can’t be gone / we’re still right here / It took so long / Can’t say we heard it all.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun