Beach House have played larger stages than Hollywood’s Fonda Theatre as they’ve increased in popularity over the last several years, but they’ve never quite shown their draw and their might as they did last night. The Baltimore duo announced the show months earlier, and it and three others sold out remarkably quickly, leading to the kind of scene outside the venue (scalpers, bootleg t-shirts) usually reserved for arena-level artists.
Inside the Fonda, though, the atmosphere was calm and attentive. People hung on frontperson Victoria Legrand’s every word and gesture, laughing at her dumb jokes and cheering at the most innocuous details, from lighting changes to the first hint at what song might come next. It’s one thing to earn such devotion, but on Wednesday night, Beach House sought out to prove that they were worthy of it.
Through the group’s setlist choosing feature on their website, Beach House have allowed fans to vote for what they want to hear at each concert. It’s unclear exactly which songs appear as a result of the voting, but the resulting performance on Wednesday saw a fair mix of the old and new, with the entire catalog of past Beach House music fitting together easily. As much as the Teen Dream choices (“Walk in the Park”, “10 Mile Stereo”, and the perfect “Silver Soul”) came across as “greatest hits” moments, fans showed just as much reverence for the bulk of the group’s Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars material, the pair of albums the group released in 2015.
Of the new tracks, opener “Levitation” only increased its power when performed live. Alex Scally joined Legrand on vocals to highlight the duo’s collaborative nature from the show’s outset, even walking over to Legrand’s keyboard to help check for sound issues, only for her to push him away playfully. And while TYLS standout “All Your Yeahs” benefitted from additional players on bass and drums, the four-piece setup was strongest on the most noisy, shoegaze numbers of the night, “Sparks” and “One Thing”.
Towards the end of the show, Legrand began showing more stage presence than previous Beach House tours, going beyond the occasional hair whips and emoting with her gestures as well as her voice. This added to the drama, with the spare lighting and projections less setting the mood and more acting as a cloak. At a smaller venue like the Fonda, it played fine, but Beach House’s music doesn’t demand the darkness like the band presents. Fans reacted to moments when the stage would light up, when they could see Legrand deliver and draw from her personality.
Even with subtle production for the majority of the evening, the focus and attention that Beach House demands and receives is something special to witness. Legrand often will exaggerate a key moment of the vocals and slowly drift away from the microphone, only to let her long hair dangle in front of her face. You can’t see what expression she’s making when she’s doing this, but the action feels like a knowing smirk, a moment where all self-seriousness vanishes. The band and the performance wouldn’t work if these moments came around too often, and it’s little complexities like that that make Beach House great.