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Music

Beirut + The Dodos @ Metropolis

Posted by Olivier / July 12, 2009

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This might be the last concert I ever review in Montreal, and I love Beirut in a way that maybe no reviewer should, so bear with me if I am lacking in some objectivity as I write this. The fact is that there is no band out there who combines light-hearted melancholy with borrowed orchestral traditions in the way that Beirut does. He manages to turn ritual musical laments into rhythmic and life-affirming pop, without once giving off the odious whiff of world music in the process.

Last night's concert at Metropolis, part of the Jazz Fest's programming, couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. Shockingly, at times it surpassed them, even if the night was imperfect. But as I opened my mouth to join a packed-to-the rafters crowd at the Metropolis in belting out Elephant Gun, my body unexpectedly seized up, and I was overwhelmed by the sensation that had brought me into the Midnight Poutine fold almost two years ago: the search for a moment of natural ecstasy, of intense and immediate realization of place, time, and self. (I did say this wasn't going to be objective, though I should have also warned this would get cheesy).

As I stood there with my mouth open and my body seized, I looked around at the crowd. My fellow Montrealers were singing with abandon, smiles plastered on their faces. I have often mocked the crowds at Montreal shows, in part because insults are easy entertainment, but mostly because too-cool-to-be-engaged-in-the-show is a virus that infects this fair city. But on this night, I was treated to the best a Montreal show has to offer: a lively and mixed-age group of dedicated fans here to share in a moment of collective indulgement. When those voices blasted out Beirut's dirges, I didn't know what to do. Four years in this city are coming to an end for me, and the piercing sentimentality of Beirut's melodies brought that point home with force, like a punch to the stomach. I can think of no greater compliment to a musician.

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Lest ye think I was wearing double sets of rose-coloured glasses, several aspects of the show disappointed me. Beirut's trademark warbling voice was lacking in puissance, either from fatigue, or, as is more likely, a poorly calibrated microphone. And at several points in the show the instrumentals lacked that finely tuned balance so evident in Beirut's recordings, though the horns were a notable exception. In what was perhaps a nod to the Jazz fest, the band varied the horns from their recordings, blasting out with piercing solos and emphasizing the dominance of trumpets in Beirut's sound. He has called his trumpet an extension of his voice, and on a night where his vocals were sub-par, the horns picked up the slack and blasted his delicate melodies to the back of the Metropolis.

After a double-encore demanded by stomping fans, Beirut rounded out the show with the dramatic Gulag Orkestar. While his set balanced his first two (and more successful) albums with songs from his most recent album inspired by Mexican funeral music, Beirut managed to fit in all the songs I was hoping for, including Postcards from Italy, Nantes, Sunday Smile, as well as Gulag Orkestar and Elephant Gun. In fact, when the first note of the concert was Nantes' cheeky keyboard line, I knew that Beirut was here to please the fans.

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The openers were the excellent San Fransican band The Dodos, (pictured above) who were last here headlining at Sala Rossa for Pop Montreal. That show and venue was perhaps a better showcase of their considerable talents, and it felt like most of the crowd at Metropolis was antsy for Beirut. Still, this is a band worth seeing in their own right. They play an eclectic mix of retro and indie rock, sort of like a hybrid of Fleet Foxes and the Arcade Fire, if I had to be blatant about it.

With a surprise free show by Artist of the Year at midnight, this was a classic night of music in Montreal. That ought to hold me until I'm back again.

Pictures by Midnight Poutine's talented Sarah Brideau

Discussion

10 Comments

Jer / July 20, 2009 at 05:03 pm
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This almost makes me cry.
I'll miss you and the ways you insulted me for not dancing enough at shows.
Alex / July 23, 2009 at 05:34 pm
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So is this how you let your friends know that you're definitely NOT ever coming back to Montreal: through a midnight poutine post on Beirut?! Well, I guess it's a classy way to go. Good review. It brings back happy memories when I first saw them at Sala back in '07... And how dare you call world music 'odious'!
Oliver / July 31, 2009 at 11:44 am
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Great Beirut post Oli, was at a wedding that night so I'm glad I got to experience the show vicariously through this touching ode to their music... and to our fine city! Best of luck on your travels!
Syafiqah / February 5, 2015 at 12:30 am
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I recently saw an epidose of Law and Order: SVU this evening with a similar event played out in Grand Central with a large percentage of the occupants froze in time. Did you guys have any involvement with this or was it purely an idea taken on by the creators of the show?I thought it was pretty awesome to see something from ImpEv be taken to a higher level like this.
golu dolls / January 29, 2019 at 04:03 am
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nice post
kanchipuramsarees / January 29, 2019 at 04:04 am
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nice post
kanchipuramsarees / January 29, 2019 at 04:04 am
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nice post
herbal powder / January 29, 2019 at 04:04 am
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nice post

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