Beirut @ the Avalon, 10.10.07/10.11.07

Alright, we're trying something new here. Since Beirut (MySpace) played Los Angeles twice (October 10 and 11), we're posting a review for each night. I authored last night's review and Bryan Hood contributed the October 10 one.

Beirut @ the Avalon, 10.10.07

In my experience you either like Beirut or you don’t. Seeing them live probably won’t change your mind if you don’t like them, but if you do prepare to fall in love. Although falling in love is completely contingent on your ability to ignore the rest of the crowd.

Beirut's music and vocals were not very different from the studio recordings we've all come to know and love. Things were tight and obviously well rehearsed, and barely a note was missed. Playing live Zach Condon's outfit exhibits this sense of energy that the studio albums have never even approached. The main reason for this? Mr. Condon himself. Condon is a very talented musician and can croon like no one else that I can think of, but more than any of these things he is performer. As amazing as everyone else in the band was (and trust me, they all were), it was hard not to be entranced by Condon. I have rarely encountered someone as charismatic as he was Wednesday night. He was in complete control of everything, the band and the crowd. But unlike most other charismatic performers, it was clear that to Condon the night wasn’t all about him. It was about everyone on stage and the music they were performing.

But as good as Beirut's set was it was hard not to be distracted by the crowd at the Avalon. Honestly I hated almost everyone who surrounded me. For fuck’s sake people over 30, stop going to concerts to be seen and feel young. If you’re going to spend the whole night talking about traffic on the 405 or Timmy’s soccer game then go to the back of the fucking venue. Also to the teenagers from the valley, you were at the show to see Beirut not Michael Cera up on the little V.I.P. balcony, so stop screaming his name. Another helpful hint, if you do want him to acknowledge you stop calling him a fucking asshole. And guy with the elephant nose, it wasn’t cute, it just proved to everyone that you were a douche bag. Your public display of masturbation didn’t impress anyone but yourself and maybe the ugly girl standing next to you—who’s obviously in love with you though you don’t notice because you’re too busy lusting over your friend’s girlfriend. You know what, I’m glad you had no one to waltz with. Fucker.

Now don’t get me wrong, lousy crowd are part of any "big" show, but last night was just ridiculous. In a way though, it makes me appreciate Beirut's set all the more. As bad as the audience was (and if you couldn’t tell they made things pretty miserable at times) I'd do it all again. Beirut was that great.

Beirut @ the Avalon, 10.11.07

We arrived a little late, unfortunately. I really wanted to check out Alaska In Winter and Colleen's set, but Hollywood's few and far between parking meters are all rustled up by idiot valets, making it near impossible to find an actual free spot. (Oh, and don't attempt parking in a lot: they hike prices up to $20 ... ahh, I remember the ol' Cleveland days when a free spot was presumed to be in close proximity to the venue.) But that's another story.

Beirut itself was modestly underwhelming. I don't know if it's the pretension that comes with the classically-trained crew or the snootier, cliquier, "we're cool because we're anti-rock stars" vibe they gave off, but there was something about the chemistry of the ensemble that just put me in a downer mood. That and the fact that they hardly ever let loose or "rocked out" or anything. It was just a little bland ... I felt like it would've been better had the group just played background music at like, a jazz club or something ... where you primarily come to drink, eat, and enjoy the atmosphere as opposed to just focusing on the band up on stage. Had that been the case, Beirut would've blown my socks off.

That being said, though, they played a pretty well-rounded set. The "favorites" (AKA "Elephant Gun"), the older Gulag Orchestra stuff, plenty o' the new, and maybe a couple unheard ones tossed in there. It was a good length, and definitely ended with a bang as well as two encore songs. But to be frank, I was let down by Mr. Condon. They could've done better. Beirut is a band that I wish had never "gone public." The romanticism that surrounded Zach & Co. has all but disappeared, and now a youthful, maybe up-tight kid has been exposed and it's just ... not what I wanted.

Beirut - Elephant Gun (Live @ SXSW)