About halfway into Beach House‘s set at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, an awful realisation dawns on us. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have created a body of work like a bonsai tree – the changes across time are small and barely noticeable, and to the untrained eye it still pretty much looks the same.
In one night, however, it felt like an entire venue of fans became that untrained eye. Perhaps it is the band’s insistence to bathe themselves in black, backlit to mask their faces and expressions. Or perhaps it’s the curation of their setlist tonight, flitting between Teen Dream, Depression Cherry, and Thank Your Lucky Stars with songs that, well, essentially sound the same.
Still, what they do perform is largely mesmerising, and most of the time it hits the right spot. Of course it’s telling that the older stuff still sounds the best, but Silver Soul blooms under a backdrop of LED stars, reminding us just how special and special Beach House can be. Theirs is the music to soundtrack campfire intimacy, or to stare at a plentiful sky from a coast at twilight.
Legrand’s vocals, as always, remain the key to the enterprise, holding the audience in its thrall as it bursts through the wall of fuzzy guitar. It makes up for the awkward repartee, but it doesn’t quite pave over the band’s very obvious shortcomings and an audience’s very palpable boredom. Beach House need to up their game for the next record, because the days of trading off this schtick seem limited at best.