20 June 2011

[gig review] Beirut @ Republic


Last Friday, June 10, 2011, Beirut graced New Orleans with a smashing performance at Republic. Avid fans packed into every nook and cranny that space within the venue could offer. Waves of excitement rippled throughout the crowd as they waited in anticipation for Beirut to take the stage. The diversity of the crowd alone demonstrated the group's widespread popularity—indeed, the audience consisted of a relatively even balance of young and middle aged individuals, all of whom were equally excited for the show.

Beirut, a world class act, draws a wide range of musical influences into a powerful blend of Balkan and Eastern European folk music with Indie rock. Beirut's front man, Zach Condon, formulated the group's distinct musical style at the age of seventeen. While visiting his cousin in Europe, he began to develop a keen interest in various Balkan musicians such as guitarist and band leader Goran Bregovic and trumpeter Boban Markovic. During Condon's musical exploration at this age, he wrote the song which was later to become Beirut's new single, “East Harlem.” This song is one of many to appear on their new album The Rip Tide, which is to be released on August 30, 2011.

In some respects, the release of “East Harlem” can be viewed as a rejuvenation of Beirut as well as a new stage in Condon's career. The supporting band sports a new line up with Perrin Cloutier on accordion and cello, Nick Petree on drums and percussion, Paul Collins on electric and upright bass, Kelly Pratt on trumpet, french horn, and glockenspiel, and Ben Lanz on trombone and tuba.

The night before the show, Paul Collins gave a DJ set at The Saint. I had the chance to speak with him briefly and he expressed excitement over the next night's show. “It's a really good set—we've been working really hard on it. I hope you'll enjoy it,” he said. His words held true in every respect.

Beirut began their set with the song “The Concubine” from March of the Zapotec/Holland EP sparking an exultant response from the crowd. After the initial excitement the crowd's banter lulled to a hush, allowing the musicians to flood the silence with the rich sound of their instruments. Almost immediately, the music invoked a profound sense of happiness and elation throughout the audience. They followed the opening song with “Elephant Gun,” and the crowd’s initial awe gave way to a contagious urge to dance.

On almost every song, the crowd would begin to clap along with the band until heavy percussion signaled the climax of the song. The energy of the audience fueled the group to play louder and more intensely. During the group's performance of “Nantes,” from their album The Flying Cup Club, parts of the crowd broke out into a mosh pit.

The muggy New Orleans summer weather—accompanied in full force with the heat generated by the crowd—drenched the band members in sweat. At one point in the show, Zach Condon commented, “this is definitely the hottest show we've ever played!” Despite the swelter and unbearable crowding, individuals were polite and friendly. We were simply grateful to share the experience with one another.

Beirut ended their set with “Elephant Gun,” placing a particular emphasis on the material in their upcoming album. After finishing the song, they were immediately egged back on stage by the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd. Their encore, however, was not limited to a measly one or two songs. The audience called Beirut back to the stage four times! By the end of the show, the energy of the performers and the crowd had escalated into a mutually ecstatic frenzy.

- Article written by Euan Wallace
- All photographs by Joshua Brasted

For more pictures from the show,
check out Joshua's Flickr.

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