By Carlos Sanchez
If you’re a music fan residing in the creative capital of the world, Los Angeles, it’s both an amazing opportunity and an impossible conundrum when you have to choose between seeing the band Beirut at The Fonda Theatre, Keith Urban at the Hollywood Bowl, The Lumineers at The Greek, Hercules & Love Affair at The Troubadour, or Jon Brion at the Largo Coronet. They all played live in L.A. on the night of Sept. 27, and many of us chose to see the band Beirut at one of Hollywood’s first legitimate theatres — the historic 1920s venue originally built as Carter De Haven’s Music Box and formerly known as The Henry Fonda Theatre.
Beirut is often categorized as world music and for good reason. The band’s sound has evolved from the seeds that were implanted in the impressionable mind of Zach Condon, the band’s founder, during his travels throughout Europe at the age of sixteen. It’s obvious that Balkan Gypsy folk music had an influence on the band’s early songs and still defines much of Beirut’s instrumentation. You can also hear an infatuation with French chansons and a fascination with Mexican funeral bands. That unique mix is then somehow blended with electronic music, indie rock, and jazz, ultimately making Beirut’s music indelible and unique.
Beirut is a six-member band consisting of singer/songwriter Zach Condon, Perrin Cloutier on accordion, Paul Collins on bass, Nick Petree on drums, Kyle Resnick on horns, and Ben Lanz on trombone. Their four albums — Gulag Orkestar, The Flying Club Cup, March of the Zapotec, and The Rip Tide — have helped build a solid fan base since Condon recruited some friends to play a live show in New York and Beirut was born. And despite the band’s youthful appearance and attitude, their lyrics are mature and speak of love, friendship, and community, while touching on universal themes. All in all, this is not typical of people in their twenties, but it makes the band who they are.
I decided to head down to Hollywood as early as 4 p.m. to see the large amount of fans that chose to line up more than six hours prior to their beloved band take the stage for this general admission show. I interviewed the first three fans in line and their exuberance was contagious.
“I had been listening to the band for a long time and I think every album is better and better.”
“There is just something romantic about the band. And there is something in the music that transports me to places in the world that I’ve never even been to.”
“I just love Beirut! They feature a variety of instruments from all over the world. Every time I see them live I am satisfied.”
By 10:15 p.m., the band had taken the stage and was captivating the audience with song after song, beginning with the crowd favorite, “Nantes.” Given the tune’s poignant lyrics, “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you, Los Angeles,” it was the perfect way to commence the nightlong sing-along.
The intimacy of The Fonda venue was ideal and allowed Beirut to build a rapport with all in attendance. In fact, it felt as if Zach and the band were serenading each individual in attendance. And when someone offered the lead singer a cookie in between songs, he replied, “Thanks, but I don’t eat sugar,” making the crowd laugh and, in turn, bringing us all even closer together for the song “A Sunday Smile.”
Set List for Beirut at the Fonda:
- “Postcards from Italy”
- “East Harlem”
- “Serbian Cocek”
- “A Sunday Smile”
- “The Akara”
- “The Shrew”
- “Elephant Gun”
- “Santa Fe”
- “Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)”
- “After the Curtain”
- “My Night with the Prostitute from Marseille”
- “The Penalty”
- “The Gulag Orkestar”
The definite highlight of the night was the short time between the end of Beirut’s set and the band returning to the stage for their encores. The energy level of the fans was at a fever pitch, and as everyone clapped and screamed and stomped, the entire venue seemed to shake in anticipation of the band’s final three songs. It was a moment I will not soon forget and one that made me crave more.
That’s why I, along with many devoted fans, ventured to see them the following night as the opening act for Vampire Weekend at the sold out Hollywood Bowl. At the show, I was fortunate enough to meet Zach Condon backstage and was taken aback at how modest he is and how grateful he was to meet me — a reporter, photographer, and brand new fan. Needless to say, they wowed the crowd again, this time under the starless skies of Los Angeles. The stars of the night were on stage, though. And they shined bright for thirteen songs, beginning again with “Nantes,” but this time ending their set with “Coshen.”
Thank you for those two nights, Beruit. It was music at its truest. Hopefully it won’t be a long time until we see you again.
Stay in touch with the latest Beirut news at: bandbeirut.com.
Share the friendship at: facebook.com/beirutmusic.