Santa Fe indie pioneers Beirut are in the midst of an extensive world tour, taking their fantastic fifth album, Gallipoli, out on the road. The latest stop on the UK leg of their tour saw the band treating London fans to a captivating performance at Hammersmith’s Apollo.
The band have explored a range of sounds since the release of their debut Gulag Orkestar in 2006. Many of the highlights of their varied catalogue were on display throughout the night, including the feel good melodies of ‘No, No, No’, fan favourites ‘The Rip Tide’ and ‘Santa Fe’, which demonstrated the band’s strong pop sensibilities and the majestic Balkan folk of breakout tracks ‘Postcards From Italy’ and ‘Elephant Gun’.
Gallipoli however, provided the backbone for the performance, with almost every track on the record given its moment, right from opener; the record’s first track ‘When I Die’. Pacing is vital to any setlist, balancing variety with cohesion and across the course of more than 20 tracks the band was largely on point. Drawing on the recurring motifs of any Beirut record, the performance hinged on shuffling percussion, melodic keys and piercing horns, allowing the varied global influences to flourish with each passing track.
The regal venue was packed to the rafters with a suitably international audience, and the band and their engineers had clearly worked hard optimising the set up to maximise the sound quality on night with a crisp, high-fidelity output. This set up allowed the six-piece to exploit the organic musical range of their records in a live setting, from the celebratory march of ‘Gallipoli’ and the poignant layering of ‘We Never Lived Here’ to the frenetic breakdown of the eastern tinged ‘The Shrew’ and the Balearic rhythms of ‘Corfu’.
The lighting was similarly complementary, synchronised with the music, breathing life into every stab of the horns and punch of the drums. Focused around floating orbs surrounding the band, the lights revealed more with each song through the opening phases of the set, from low level firefly lighting to roving streams of light, akin to branches of trees cutting through the light as the staging represented an intimate performance amongst friends in the woods as much as it did a performance to 5,000.
Band founder and lead, Zach Condon’s picturesque compositions and globetrotting sound was at the heart of the performance, the emotional impact of some of his recorded work, including ‘Family Curse’ from their latest release, lessened or missing entirely. The sound has, however, always been the focus of the group’s work and on this night in London it has probably never sounded better. This felt like a band at their peak, revelling in their strong catalogue of work, with their experience and musical skill rising to the fore on stage.
The band has just announced a number of new dates on their world tour and will return to the UK in August – dates below. Gallipoli is out now via 4AD Records and can be downloaded or streamed HERE.
UPCOMING UK TOUR DATES
25 – Tramshed, Cardiff
26 – Vicar Street , Dublin
27 – Vicar Street, Dublin
29 – Rock City, Nottingham
31 – End of the Road Festival, Salisbury