Mar 6, 2008

Beirut @ Manning Bar

Music is a shared experience. Even in a room full of strangers, the music unites us all. For most of us music lovers, it is our form of church. We don't go to worship, well some of us do, but we go to rejoice in the singular joy that music gives us. If the artist is doing their job, they are sharing that joy with us. Within the last year I have been able to share that experience with a wonderful person who makes every musical experience twice as good. No wait, a million times better. So tonight, due to illness, I was alone. Well I had the great company of Geoff and Cara and other friends that I have made. But you know what I mean. There is no substitute. Could Beirut fill the void? Would they give me a shared experience at the Manning Bar. I can say yes. Not a huge, enormous yes. But a definite affirmative. Beirut weren't unforgettable. You know, life changing. But they were definitely memorable. Enjoyable, fun, a joy. So in the end that is a good result. I walked in feeling slightly ill at ease. I walked out feeling a warm glow. Thank you, Zach Condon.

I would say with firm conviction that after the run of golden shows we have been through in the last two months that my expectations are extremely high now for any live show. I mean, how do you follow Okkervil River or Explosions in the Sky. Or all that Canadian insanity, for that matter. So, in that regard Beirut's first show in Australia wasn't quite in that league. But then, few are. Luckily, as a change of pace, this was an entirely different night of sounds. No clanging guitars here, or gut wrenching vocals. It was a journey to the deep hearts of Europe. French glistenings and Balkan rumbles. Another world, another time, another sound. In fact the sound was another world all together. On two songs there was a smattering of electric bass, but the rest was a cavalcade of strings and horns. A piano accordion, a violin, some keyboards and a drummer, who apparently was an Australian stand in. I really loved the duelling mandolins and ukeleles. Neither were played with a pick up, just directly into microphones. Horns were a plenty. Trumpets, trombones, french horns and a killer bass saxophone. All these instruments were played with skill and elan. Zach Condon was adept too, playing the ukelele and a strident trumpet. He is quite a talent. Although a tired talent. He sort of stumbled on stage, complaining of jet lag and swigging a flask of whiskey. All through the night he apologised for being tired, in a vaguely disarming way. I don't know whether he was putting it on, as his trumpet playing was vociferous and sharp. And his voice was something else. Rich and elegant, deep and resonant. He sounds a lot older then his young age would indicate. Last night was also a firm reminder that anything yelled out from a crowd is invariably nonsensical or stupid. Moments of silence should stay that way. One person yelled out "Tell Us a Story". A bemused Condon replied "I'm 22".

So, to the music. It was a well paced set. Slower numbers next to up tempo ones. A good spread of tunes from both albums. I was ecstatic to hear "Brandenburg" early on, the mandolins chiming in beautifully. "Mount Wroclai" from his debut album was also a sheer delight. I think my highlight though was "The Penalty", a delicious concoction beautifully rendered in quiet serenity. They also played some songs unfamiliar to me. "Le Moribound", a Jacques Brel cover, which didn't do a lot for me, but I loved "Closing Song", which apparently is a live staple but is at yet unrecorded. "Postcards From Italy", the first Beirut song I ever heard was another one I was looking forward to. And it duly delivered. After a short break, the band returned for a brief encore. "The Gulag Orkestar" was an orgasmic delight of horns, then they closed with "Siki Siki Baba", a song originally performed by Kocani Orkestar. Apparently it appears in the movie "Borat". This is supposedly a funny film. I have not seen it. Then they disappeared into the night, leaving us wanting more. I really wanted to hear "Cliquot" or "Bratislava", but that was it. A night of beauty and delight. Elegance and refinement. A pleasant musical journey.

Set List
A Sunday Smile
Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)
Closing Song
Forks And Knives (La Fete)
Elephant Gun
The Penalty
After The Curtain
Le Moribound
Postcards From Italy
Scenic World

The Gulag Orkestar
Siki Siki Baba

More photos at Flickr.


  • At March 06, 2008 , Blogger Pam said...

    I like your comparison of music and church. I was slightly disappointed by last night's show (for the same reasons as yourself) but I still loved it a lot. The horns,how everyone was packed onto the stage, the camaraderie. The yelling and heckling was distracting but my favourite conversation (most likely involving the same drunken person) was when she yelled out, "Sing us a song!" to which Zach responded, "I will!" Haha, it was so simple!

    I would have loved Cliquot as well as Flying Club but I got Nantes and Postcards which made me happy. I have radio/live recordings of the non-album tracks but they still surprised me with how much better it is live.

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