Beach House in Berlin
Photo: Bríd O'Donovan - showshotshare.tumblr.com
I went to see Beach House in Cork last month, at the Cork Opera House (review here, which was originally published on WeAreNoise). I’m a big fan of the band and I enjoyed the gig, but, disappointingly, I wasn’t blown away. That was my third time seeing them live, in fact, and each gig, for different reasons, fell short of the wow factor (Whelan’s 2010, some kind of onstage edginess; Primavera 2010, ropey sound).
At the time, I put this down to a combination of things – mainly, the festival weekend crowd in the Opera House, much of whom were more concentrated on the bar than the stage, and qualms about the suitability of the venue for the band. Now, the Opera House is a magnificent venue, but it occurred to me that somewhere less expansive, high-ceilinged, theatrical might be a better fit for Beach House.
Well, I was lucky enough to see the band again, in Berlin, a few weeks ago, at the Astra Kulturhaus in Kreuzberg. For older Cork readers, it would remind you a bit of Sir Henry’s on the inside, but with the centre bar/DJ box taken out, and bigger – a long, dark, dingy room with a low ceiling. The stage set was identical to the Cork show and the playlist was very similar. The same personnel were onstage.
The result was a magnificent gig, full of shading and dynamic. The room was also full to halfway with screaming, cheering, arms in the air fans (not surprisingly, Berlin has many better drinking hangouts than this former Communist meeting hall stuck under a bridge by the river, if drinking is all you want to do). Ironically, Victoria was also much more engaged with the audience than I seem to remember from the Cork gig, showing that the international language of pop can cover any lost translation (Germans are of course nearly all fluent in English, and, in Berlin anyway, seem to be perfectly happy to speak it).
It feels good to have finally seen Beach House play a storming show, after four attempts. And I'd happily sit in a plane for 2 and a half hours every weekend to hear this played live.
*The Berlin gig was also unusual in the low level of the pa. It took me a while to figure out what was different – my ears weren’t ringing and my chest wasn’t vibrating in tune with the bass bins. While the lower level meant it took longer to “feel” the music, it made for a better experience in the long run. I’m guessing the reason for this must be a German environmental regulation, as we found the same in the bar later on – sitting under a speaker as the DJ put together a smooth house mix, we were able to have a quiet conversation without straining our ears. How very civilised.