Beirut – review

Academy, Manchester

"This is another one of those, er, singalongs," says Beirut's Zach Condon, sounding slightly embarrassed by what's going on around him. Once again, the cavernous Academy erupts into a choir of audience voices, with every second hand in the building raised into the air.

Writing songs that turn large crowds of adults into excitable, jibbering kids isn't the only secret of the New Mexican singer-songwriter-conceptualist's mercurial rise, which has seen his band go from playing small gigs in Knaresborough to one of Manchester's largest venues inside five years. Beirut are the encapsulation of a musical wanderlust that has taken Condon from Balkan folk to French chansons through to Mexican and Hispanic sounds. The brass section – fronted by Condon on trumpet – is pivotal, with more euphoria spreading around the venue every time the trumpets and trombones kick in. When a tuba arrives, adding a drunken wooziness to the sound, couples actually start waltzing.

Precedents for this music are hard to find. There are echoes of Sufjan Stevens; 25-year-old Condon's beautiful-yet-edgy croon is slightly reminiscent of David Byrne. Songs from their new album The Rip Tide are poppier than before, although the combination of sublime melodies and brass most brings to mind Brian Eno's 1970s vocal songs, if they were being played with the Brighouse and Rastrick band.

The lovely Nantes and Goshen and the particularly gorgeously crooned Cherbourg arrive to yet more rapture: songs that are like hazy, sepia-tinted snapshots of loves and losses along the journey. Instrumentals bring to mind both New Orleans jazz and the brassy funeral music that features in Mafia-related films as someone's head ends up in the pasta sauce. Then Condon raises his trumpet in delight, the house lights shine on the audience, and the arms go up again.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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