Posted by Campbell McNeill.
Reviewed on 23rd November 2007.
Live at Irish Centre on Thursday, 8th November 2007
When I heard the first Beirut album, 'The Gulag Orkestar', I thought that Rufus Wainwright had started singing with Romanian folk bands. The CD had come from a friend who had seen them at Glastonbury this year and had thought that they were 'life changing'.
To be honest I didn't think much of it. I mean I am not the type of music person who listens to folk songs. Then a month ago I heard the single, 'Elephant Gun' and it registered somewhere in my brain. Then I heard the recently released album, 'The Flying Club Cup' and I was hooked.
Fusing the rock and roll spirit with the elemental rawness of folk music, Zach Condon, the annoyingly young front man and founder of the band, has recognised that the folk music tradition lies in hardship and that rock and roll has its roots in a reaction to destroy authority. He has combined the two (imagine, The Grimethorpe Colliery band, with lead vocal by a factory era, Lou Reed) to produce a melodic sound with the drive of Pretty Vacant.
On the night, support was a man called Magic Arm. He had one of this clever sequencer thingies that means he can record himself live and play what he played a moment ago back to us. The music, sort of Hot Chip with guitars performed by a one-man band, was reasonable enough but it all seemed a bit like hard work and he should just get himself a band.
The crowd that had gathered for the gig was a strange mix of folky types and students who had just emerged from the 'World of Warcraft' after game pow-wow.
Funnily enough the band reflected this mix and when all 8 of them walked on stage lead by Zach Condon in a stripy jumper, I wasn't sure what to expect. Then they started playing.
You can't go wrong with a mandolin and when you combine it with trumpet good things happen. When you add a saxophone and a ukulele and then another trumpet and percussion and you have 8 people playing at the top of their game to a small crowd then magic happens.
A rather muted crowd at first, many wondering where the wizards were, reacted with increasing loudness as the band played songs from the first and second albums. By the time Zach had covered Jacques Brel's Le Moribund and had survived an 'in the crowd walk about' the audience had been won over.
They only played an hour and there was no need for them to the 'in crowd' thing, they had won over an audience and this is the last time they will be playing venues this small on the strength of this gig.