Beirut doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s indie scene. They don’t fit into the electronic synth style pop music or the acoustic melancholy music or even the refined garage band punk. In fact, when I tried to think of bands that Beirut reminded me of, I was stumped. I could only think of a region that Beirut made me think of, and that was Eastern Europe. Still, despite the fact that of all the random instruments Beirut mixes into their music, neither an electric nor an acoustic makes the lineup, Beirut has found their own niche in today’s music scene. Wednesday night’s concert at the Fillmore in downtown Denver was evidence of exactly that.
The concert started off with opening act Laetitia Sadier. While her calm and understated stage presence was charming, most of the audience couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to a setlist for which 50% of the songs were in French. Despite some “invitations to be quiet” from Mrs. Sadier, the audience continued to chatter on until Beirut came on;I can’t really blame them. Her performance seemed more suited to a coffee house than a concert hall.
Beirut opened with a performance of “Scenic World” that immediately lassoed the attention of the previously otherwise occupied crowd. Although Beirut’s Eastern European folk music isn’t exactly dancing music, that didn’t matter on Wednesday night as the audience swayed to the rhythm of the accordion. I can not accurately put into words the breathtaking moments during which Zachary Condon stopped singing and picked up his trumpet or ukelele to play the pure instrumental parts of songs. As the band played, we couldn’t help but be caught up in the music.
It is a rare thing in today’s music world for a band to be trademarked by anything but the lead singer’s voice, and while Condon’s voice is a key component to Beirut’s sound, it is their instrumentals that really make this band unique. I had heard these parts on songs, but had never truly appreciated them until I was literally enveloped by the sounds of trumpets and trombones. There is richness and fullness to this that a recording just can’t capture, not to mention the majestic image of Condon playing his trumpet in unison with lead trumpet/french horn player Kelly Pratt (who, interestingly enough, also plays for Arcade Fire) or of Perrin Cloutier performing an accordion solo.
Highlights of the night include stunning performances of “Postcards from Italy” and “Cherbourg” during the regular set and “The Gulag Orkestar” during the second encore, which featured an impressive Tuba solo from Ben Lanz. While Beirut may not be following any of the trends of modern music, they have made themselves welcome in the music scene today by endearing themselves to crowds with their rich instrumentals and the soft voice of Zachary Condon.