Beirut's Zach Condon with uke, crappy picture by me.

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The Moore Theatre

It's been six years since Zach Condon's old-world


Beirut Bring That Goddamn Golden Voice to the Moore Theatre (and Drink Onstage with Impunity!)

Beirut's Zach Condon with uke, crappy picture by me.

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

The Moore Theatre

It's been six years since Zach Condon's old-world orchestral indie pop band Beirut played Seattle proper--following an incident at the Crocodile in 2006, in which a then-underage Condon wasn't allowed in the club until the moment security escorted him onstage to perform, the closest they've come has been Portland or the Gorge--and perhaps like many people, I'd been waiting just that long to see them live (having twice missed them at Sasquatch). The splendor of the Gorge aside, you couldn't ask for a much more fitting venue than the Moore Theatre, it's antique charm an ideal frame for Condon's old-school, music hall-style crooning. And it was nice to see the band drinking, out of non-descript plastic cups, onstage--it was all just so modern and European!

The Moore isn't perfect, though: those seats are in there for good, and even when it's general admission, and even when the whole audience is going to stand anyway, if you get stuck behind someone tall or talkative or otherwise unbearable--I got all three (the "otherwise" being dancing with jazz hands and air sax, even though there was no saxophone onstage)--your ability to relocate is pretty constrained as opposed to at a show with an open floor. My usual misanthropy was no match for Beirut, though. Taking the stage as a six-piece (drums, bass, accordion/keys, trumpet, trombone/tuba, and Condon on ukulele and flugelhorn), the band played through a selection from Beirut's three proper albums as well as the semi-obscure gem "My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille" from the March of the Zapotec/Holland double EP credited to Beirut/Realpeople.

The band were without flaw (or maybe the drumming was too muscular for your tastes), but the star here was clearly Condon's ridiculous, mellifluous voice.

You wanted to laugh some moments it was so good, to say nothing of the enjoyable dissonance between that deep, rich, old-soul of a voice and Condon's cherubic baby-face. The second most entertaining sight onstage: the drummer's sometimes hapless sometimes enthused 10-yard stare--I don't know if anybody else noticed, but it was transfixing, y'all. So much so, that when he stood up on one song and swung his arms up in a gesture of audience-hyping it was like a goofy spell had been broken.

Onstage, Condon is, as in his songs, a man of few words, sticking mostly to the bog-standard of between song patter, deflecting shouts of "I love you" with just a little two-fingers-to-the-forehead salute, even at one point acknowledging, "Am I not the master of banter or what?" He also liberally garbled song lyrics when the melody seemed to demand it, gulping down syllables then gliding smoothly ahead to the next note (in an interview in 2008, Condon told me that lyrics were such an after-thought to his melodies that he had his brother write about half of them).

The set list was nearly perfect (could've used "Guyamas Sonora" maybe), opening with "Scenic World," including a solo ukulele version of "The Penalty" in the encore, and hitting nearly every other high point of their catalogue in between. They played "Cherbourg" and "Nantes" back-to-back, emphasizing their shared lyric "it's been a long time since I've seen you smile" (similarly, you might have noticed the "long way down" of "Cherbourg" echoed in the encore of "Carousels").

The crowd: An older couple in front of me was reading The New York Times as they waited for the show to start; shit was cultured as all hell up in there!

Set list (my notes are spotty, but this looks like what they've been playing--correct me as needed):

1. "Scenic World"

2. "The Shrew"

3. "Elephant Gun"

4. "Vagabond"

5. "Postcards From Italy"

6. "Santa Fe"

7. "A Sunday Smile"

8. "East Harlem"

9. "Serbian Cocek"

10. "The Akara"

11. "Port of Call"

12. "Cherbourg"

13. "Nantes"

14. "After the Curtain Falls"

15. "The Rip Tide"

16. "My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille"


17. "The Penalty" (solo)

18. "Carousels"

19. "Gulag Orkestar"

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