Review: Beirut @ The Forum, May 8th 2009.

Beirut brought the house down last night at The Forum in Kentish Town. The show culminated in two encores in front of a sold out crowd who had snapped up tickets for this one off London date months in advance. A bassist, drummer, accordion player and two horn players, working their way through an impressive brass arsenal, joined prodigal 23 year old front man Zach Condon onstage.

For those unfamiliar, the band’s colourful sound draws heavy influence from Balkan music and French chanson which the New Mexico born, Virginia raised Zach picked up when travelling Europe at the age of 17. Despite the grand wall of sound that attempts to engulf him, it is Zach’s voice that manages to resonate the strongest and shine through the powerfully orchestrated songs. It defies belief that a voice so rich can come from someone so young. Sure enough the real spine tingling moments (of which there were plenty last night) came from songs where Zach’s voice was given the most space in which to work like the impeccable ‘Postcards From Italy’ and ‘Elephant Gun’.

Other stand out tracks came in the shape of ‘Nantes’ and the sing-along ‘A Sunday Smile’ which are classic examples of what Beirut do best. One more thing that struck me was the way that the band has managed to make these sounds of yesteryear tie in seamlessly with a modern day pop/dance sensibility. A couple of the tracks on show tonight from latest album, ‘March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland’, are backed up by dancey drum beats and deep bass grooves which are crying out for a full dance makeover. Zach’s voice on these tracks works in a similar way that Antony Hegarty’s (of Antony and The Johnsons) did for Hercules & Love Affair last year.

Aside from his almost sickening talent for picking a melody it’s Zach’s ability to make the old fashioned sound relevant and exciting. The result is so much more than a history lesson but the history is there should you seek it out. A special performance from a special band.

mp3: Beirut – Postcards From Italy

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