The Great Hall at the Auckland Town Hall is awash with smoke and drenched in icy-blue light. Its century-old organ leers over the top of the projection screen, mustering the eager-to-squeeze-to-the-front troops, waiting for Beach House to start.
As the threesome appear, more dry ice than Cliff Richard’s entire 80s Top Of The Pops oeuvre permeates the stage and hall. But oh, this is so more stylised. This is deliciously choreographed dry ice. It's a perfect amount of too much.
The smoke magically parts, creating an aura around lead singer and organist Victoria Legrand. She appears like Alan Moore’s V, or a beautiful ferryman, ready to take the audience across a dreamy River Styx.
The bottom half of Legrand’s sequinned trench coat glimmers as the band lurch into otherworldly openers, Levitation and lazulii. James Barone’s muffled toms and crashes beating out a path, down which float soft, whispering vocals and a warm-side-of-creepy church organ.
In many ways, the notion of Beach House playing songs does them a discredit. This is a soundscape. In this live setting, individual words are difficult to pick out, and you soon stop trying to. Legrand’s voice is a member of Beach House’s sonic palette. Meanings of words are insignificant compared to the sonically powerful effect of her phonemes.
Beach House guitarist Alex Scally sometime stands, sometimes sits, flitting between guitar, bass and keys. On PPP from 2015’s Depression Cherry, he picks out a lovely 6/8, kind of metallic nursery rhyme, over which Legrand’s lulling seduces many a cochlea. L’Inconnue from Beach House’s most recent long-player 7 maintains the aural takeover, with Legrande vocals sounding like a 60-a-day Eartha Kitt.
Surging through the omnipresent smoke, Beach House are backlit throughout - amazing! Their silhouettes are almost flooded, at different times, by swathes of delicious rhubarb and custard, mandarin, turquoise, pearlescent snakeskin and gold dust. The town hall’s 1911 organ is on its tiptoes, peering over the top of the screen. Its staunchness and envy relax in a nod of approval as the screen shows hi-def snippets of Legrand's fingers lacing their way around dreamy Leslie riffs.
This Beach House gig has the sound and visuals of Lynchian melodrama. Those eager-to-get-down-the-front boys and girls are still glued to the same spot, head-swaying and drooling.
I creep down the left wing of the venue toward the front where I saw statues of people, jaw-dropped.
Some have lost their public decency filter to the power of the music. There is sexual exploration and unadulterated frotting. From the front, the circle look like mannequins, forever entombed in the hypnotic sonic waves.
On Drunk in LA, Scally’s droning guitar weaves its way, like an exquisite quill, through the communal cerebellum. Lemon Glow and an throw-everything-at-it encore of Dive send stereocilia wild.
To label Beach House as ‘dream pop’ is to do them a disservice. This is cinematic, soundtrack, ethereal pop. It’s what’s on the stereo on decadent days in bed with the window open, curtains flowing and the summer rain pouring in. And it is transfixing.