Since the resurgence of the ‘dream pop’ sound fully took hold over the indie world a few years back, many and varied bands have enjoyed a smattering of initial success before withering away. But Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, who together make up Beach House, have definitely not fallen by the wayside. In fact, 2012 was an incredible year for them following the release of their fourth album, Bloom. In America, it topped the US Alternative Chart, whilst over on these shores it gained an impressive Top 20 placing in the overall UK Albums Chart.
Before they commence the second of two sold out shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire (their 20th London appearance, notes Legrand), it’s up to fellow Bella Union labelmate Marques Toliver to warm up the crowd on this freezing March evening. He cuts a striking figure – tall and smartly dressed whilst clutching his violin – and most people in the room seem surprised when he starts singing his heavily R’n'B influenced songs over the top of his swooning arrangements. It is impressive stuff; he exudes a wealth of confidence and is quietly charismatic with it. It’s a pleasure to watch such an engrossing performer with serious musical chops on the way up.
An air of hushed anticipation follows, as the lights go down. Beach House’s generous 90-minute set is equally divided between Bloom and their 2010 breakthrough, Teen Dream, with a couple of tracks from Devotion thrown in for good measure. Their diverse use of lighting throughout is rather brilliant and, at its best, helps to create an atmosphere that matches the intensity of their music. They also help conjure up some really magical moments. Wishes doesn’t particularly stand out on Bloom, but when aired live it suddenly becomes intense and soaring. Singles such as Zebra and Lazuli garner some of the biggest cheers of the evening, but they save their most thunderous songs until last. 10 Mile Stereo and Irene both build up steam before crashing down to Earth with an almighty thump.
The band are more than happy to stand back from the limelight for the most part (with the exception of some slightly awkward stage banter) and Legrand’s presence in particular seems initially to be purposely withdrawn. For the first few tracks she is only ever illuminated by the bank of lights behind her and she’s content to stay there, but as the set rumbles on she becomes gradually more animated. Vocally, she is on top form and her performance really bolsters the likes of Norway and Used To Be.
Legrand hints towards the end that this might be their last show for a while, much to the disappointment of some of the crowd, but they’ve gone out with a triumphant bang. The evolution of Beach House has been slow and steady. What happens next is anyone’s guess in terms of where they take their music, but one thing is definitely evident: right now Beach House are fascinating to watch and it’s gloriously agreeable to fall under their potent spell.