This misunderstanding persisted until I happened to read an interview with Victoria Legrand, the very female lead vocalist of Beach House, when their excellent record Teen Dream came out. Victoria's voice is low without being deep, and coupled with baggy black clothes and a shock of curly hair, lends an androgyny to both the sound and stage presence that is a little mysterious and a lot sultry.
Taking the Pageant stage after shoegazers Wild Nothing, Beach House gently warmed the crowd with the rippling guitars and blurry keyboards characteristic of their sound. An arrangement of large wooden pallets framing industrial-sized fans provided the backdrop, purportedly designed by guitarist Alex Scally. It put me in mind of an urban summer in a rust belt town, especially when hundreds of tiny white lights illuminated the stage during "Lazuli," as though we were gazing not at our shoes but at the stars outside; the effect this had on the crowd was an immediate, ecstatic, "Ooooooohhh!" It became impossible not to sway back and forth in time with the hazy rhythms of "Used to Be" and "Take Care." "It's incomplete without you," Victoria crooned during "Silver Soul," and I thought my heart would burst.
Onstage banter was kept to a minimum -- but are you surprised? Clearly, Beach House carefully crafts each element of their music into a full work of art, from lyrics to album design to song order. They are not readily shuffled into an iTunes playlist, and so it was interesting to see how they jumped around from "Bloom" to "Teen Dream" and back again, with just a few nods to an earlier catalogue -- or a phase of life now left behind? -- from "Devotion" as well as their self-titled debut. Victoria and Alex seem quiet without being shy, two serious artists who are content to let the music speak for itself, intentionally leaving their ambiguous lyrics up for interpretation.
Dedicating the love song "Take Care" to the city of St. Louis, Victoria announced, "This is for you…we are going to try and make a big pizza of caring here in this room." ("IMO'S!" somebody yelled to my right.) At the encore, she walked to the edge of the stage, bent down and shook hands with a dozen or so grasping fans. "It's nice to reach out and touch someone," she remarked, before whipping into "10 Mile Stereo" and the beautiful "Irene," a driving, quiet-loud emotional outburst that ended with -- oh yes! -- head-banging.
After lulling the crowd into a half-dream state, the explosive finish felt oddly disconcerting, like the feeling you get after watching the last firecracker fade into the dark on a swampy summer night. But if there's anything you could learn by listening to Beach House, it would be that it's OK to be happy and a little sad at the same time.
Heart of Chambers
Used to Be
10 Mile Stereo