Selling out within 20 minutes, touts reportedly selling tickets for as much as £90 – not many sets have been anticipated as much in 2009 as this performance by 23-year-old minor phenomenon Zach Condon and his band of compatriots that make up Beirut.
The February release of double-EP-not-really-a-new-album ‘March of the Zapotec/Holland’ may have been greeted with a pretty lukewarm reception by various circles of critics, but tonight is nothing less than a celebration of a man who has an enviable ability to seamlessley merge Eastern European and French Folk with Western pop and make it sound brilliant.
Beginning with one of their best-known songs, ‘Nantes’, is a bold and confident move, but in retrospect perhaps not the best idea as Beirut don’t find themselves in full stride until about three or four songs into tonight’s set. But if the opener may have come across as a tad flat, the undeniable brilliance of ‘Mount Wroclai’, the smile-inducing ‘Scenic World’ and the swaying ‘A Sunday Smile’ all more than make up for that. An alternative take on ‘Postcards From Italy’ is a treat to behold, as is a stiring rendition of ‘The Akara’.
Visually, it is safe to say that Beirut possess perhaps the coolest drummer ever to wield a pair of wooden sticks. Looking like Napoleon Dynamite after a few too many happy pills, tonight Nick Petree is the driving force behind the band, snare-rolling and grinning his way through the set as Condon dictates the instrumentation of ukeleles, banjos and trombones that surround him.
Finishing on an encore of Ko?ani Orkesta’s ‘Siki Siki Baba’, tonight is a stiff lesson in how to successfuly complement traditional musical forms with a contemporary twist. And it’s probably safe to say that, even if you have to stump up £90 for a ticket, it’s most definitely worth it.
Words: Nick Calafato
Photo: Louise Roberts