Beach House / Papercuts Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto ON, August 20
Published Aug 21, 2018"So nice of you to join us on the holodeck of the Enterprise tonight," guitarist Alex Scally joked about halfway through Beach House's set at Toronto's Sony Centre.
It was a rare moment of levity in a set that was largely dark and dreamy, and it accurately captured the otherworldly tone of the evening. With shadowy light displays and haunting dream-pop soundscapes, this night was more about heavy-lidded serenity than vibrant energy.
The music began with openers Papercuts, a long-running indie pop combo whose jangly tunes made them an appropriate paring with Beach House. Their songs were pleasant, but with too many mid-tempo numbers and a distinct lack of hooks, nothing stood out much. The best moment came when they leaned into their dreamy, hypnotic influences during a closing jam.
Beach House opened their headlining set with the sweetly drifting "Levitation," with all of the lights down save for two long, narrow strips of blindingly white LED bulbs in the backdrop. This set the tone for the night, as the musicians onstage mostly appeared as silhouettes against the stark backlighting.
The set list drew liberally from their last few albums, although it was difficult to pick out one song from another and one album from the next: nearly every song consisted of the same basic materials of Alex Scally's chiming arpeggios, singer Victoria Legrand's purring organ, and hired gun James Barone rhythmic interplay with tip-tapping drum machines. The audience was politely attentive, but the response fell short of rapturous, and everyone's butts remained firmly planted in chairs.
As gorgeous as twinkling anthems like "PPP" and "Myth" were, the highlights came when Beach House turned up the volume a notch. "Dark Spring" offset hypnogogic harmonies with thundering drum fills, while "Sparks" blended its honeyed melodies with jarring guitar fuzz and dissonant organ chords. These songs had Legrand headbanging and whipping around her long hair — an unexpected display of enthusiasm in a performance that was otherwise about careful control.
Toward the end of the set, Beach House made some charmingly awkward comments about their fondness for Toronto and their gratitude towards the crowd. They aren't gifted orators, but their bumbling banter seemed heartfelt.
With a few final thank-yous, Legrand invited the crowd to stand up for the final number, which turned out to be "Dive" from this year's 7. As it surged towards a thunderous krautrock climax, the fans finally began coming out of their shell and swaying along. Perhaps if that had happened earlier in the show, it could have been great rather than simply very good.