Review: Beach House in Toronto 08/20/18

The Sony Centre auditorium buzzed as the scheduled intermission neared its end. Despite a driving opening performance by San Francisco’s “Papercuts”, many fans were still trickling in just in time to catch the main act, ushers pacing across aisles in a futile attempt to get everyone to their seats on time. All too quickly, the lights dropped and the crowd fell silent as the first note pierced the air.

The group was at once everything and nothing like what you might expect them to be live. As anyone could predict, the ambient synths and vocals of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally echoed through every corner of the venue, inhibiting fans to sway throughout the set. New and older songs bled effortlessly into one another, interrupted only by occasional sheepish banter to remind us that people were in fact behind the sounds billowing from the stage. With masterfully curated peaks and valleys of energy, the lineup of songs had everyone engaged and emotionally connected to the music.

Most surprising to me was the lack of excitement and creativity behind the show’s visuals. For music that can really take your mind on a trip, I had expected Beach House to pair equally fascinating marquees and colours to their sounds. The dark stage and minimalist background lights gave little for fans to photograph or see, demanding a greater level of focus on the music itself. As one friend said, “You were able to feel so much more connected to the people around you [at the show].” Though I couldn’t get 90% of the words right, I found myself deeply invested in every song from start to finish, never wishing one would end and skip ahead to a favourite.

Despite this, the Monday night crowd had a subdued tameness about it, and everyone remained in their seats until the very last song when Legrand literally had to say “it’s okay to stand for this one!” Whether this was a symptom of respecting the vibes of the venue or feeling tired on a workday evening is tough to say, but it definitely gave the artists little to build off of. Alcohol service ended promptly at 9:30, causing some fans to scramble and get up early in the set in an attempt to escape sobriety. For those looking for a dancey, drug-induced visual trip, the Sony Centre production might not have satisfied their wishes — but for the rest of us looking to hear Beach House live and to become a little more acquainted with some of the band’s non-singles, the show did not disappoint.