Beirut at Bowery Ballroom
It took a little while to get things going—"It's Monday," Zach Condon said repeatedly, both apologizing for the low energy (read: hangovers) on stage and chiding the quiet crowd—but about a third of the way in to last night's show at Bowery Ballroom, Zach and his 9-/ 10-/ 11-piece band really starting kicking it, the sold-out house responded, and the end result was a reeling, raucous, rousing 80-minute performance that included five (or was it six?) increasingly whiskey-fueled encores.
Beirut plays a distinct brand of Eastern European-flavored free-for-alls, featuring strings from violins to electric bass to ukuleles, brass from tuba to trumpet to french horn to things I didn't recognize, keyboards, accordion, and all punched up with a wide variety of percussion. It's loud, it's celebratory, it's pretty and melancholy and sweet, it's eminently danceable, it makes for excellent live material.
Though I'm not familiar enough with Beirut song titles to give you a complete set list (plus it seemed like he was doing a few "traditional" covers as encores), I can say that Zach opened the show with Postcards from Italy, then played something else, then came Bandenburg, then tore through a whole bunch of tunes that included Elephant Gun, maybe Mount Wrocial, a song from his forthcoming album called Summer Smile, a cover of a Jacques Brown (?) number, Rhineland, another tune from the next disc, and something he wrote that he only plays live. For an encore the band played two songs, then left. Then they all came back, jumped into the audience, and did two more songs (there was a nice "surround-sound" effect as the horns paraded through the crowd), then tried to leave again, but Zach called everyone back to do (I think) two more, finally sending us home with Canals of Our City.
This was Beirut's second of three shows at Bowery Ballroom. Tonight's show is sold out. Zach and his crew are not to be missed the next time around.