Wednesday, 19 September 2012

live review: beirut, daughter @ abc, 11th september

Built around Elena Tonra’s candid songwriting – a litany of break-ups and breakdowns in a doleful key – Daughter’s fragile sound could easily lose potency in a room this size. But the trio take to the scaled-up surroundings with understated confidence, leaving many-a lump in the throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are one song away from Beirut!” announces Igor Haefeli towards the end of a relatively lengthy set. “Ah like yous guys better!” comes a cry from the floor – an enthusiastic assessment that also proves rather prescient.

For where Daughter exceed expectations tonight, Beirut only match them, turning in a solid, crowd-pleasing set that’s a little diminished by a lack of energy onstage. Jetlag’s to blame: “you might be seeing a show I’ll never remember later, which is kinda cool” Zach Condon explains towards the end, dead on his feet but too consummate a professional to short change his fans.

The incredible musicianship from Condon and band is what keeps the show satisfying despite its lulls: even if he had passed out fully, chances are muscle memory would have got him through, such is his honed expertise. High points come from across the discography: the horns of Postcards from Italy garner a passionate, wordless sing-along; a solo uke The Penalty ushers hush; while East Harlem is among the cuts suggesting last year’s The Rip Tide didn’t gather a fraction of the attention it deserved. Tonight won’t go down as the band’s finest ninety minutes, but even on half-cylinders, they’re frequently superb.

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