622470_418921134816791_1768987813_o– ALBERT HALL, MANCHESTER –

Back in 2006, one Zach Condon started his own solo musical project which soon expanded into a band, now known as Beirut. Fast forward to the present, the American band has three studio albums under their name and a massive fan base with their multi-elemental indie folk rock music.

The venue tonight is Albert Hall, an old chapel building that has been restored and transformed into an achingly beautiful music hall, restaurant and bar. Bless the folks at Trof (who also gave us Gorilla and Deaf Institute) for fixing this place up after 40 long years!

On to the show, Condon lets us know that this gig is Beirut’s first European date in at least a year. The band plays a total of 21 songs – quite a long set list compared to the majority of shows I’ve caught which have only half of that. Similarly, there is also double the number of instruments littered across the stage. Beirut being multi-instrumentalists, I wasn’t surprised to see an accordion, two trumpets, a trombone, a tuba, a bass guitar, drums, a keyboard and a ukulele.

Due to the vast musical abilities of the band members, the songs boast very different and unique sounds that other bands armed with the basics (guitars and drums) cannot boast. For instance, ‘Vagabond’ shows off the versatility of the accordion, ‘Cherbourg’ highlights the trumpets and ‘The Penalty’ gives the spotlight to the ukulele. Likewise, when the instruments combine and interact with one another, the performance becomes even grander as in “Nantes”.

Something unique for the night is a track with no vocals whatsoever. Beirut performed a pretty playful tune that was punctuated with fantastic solos from the trombone and one of the trumpets. Among my personal favourites are ‘Postcards from Italy’, ‘After The Curtain’ and ‘Santa Fe’.

My overall impression of the gig is that Beirut is certainly top notch when it comes to musicality. The brass-driven sound has not fully been exploited by very many bands and I suspect it is not that easy to perfect in the studio, much less live. However, there was nothing notably special about the gig and audience interaction was often muffled and mumbled. Still, some tracks really shone and the venue was stunning.

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Amanda Hoi

Amanda is in a committed, lifelong relationship with indie electronic music. Plays the cello and guitar, and plans to sing once she's mustered enough courage. She's a Malaysian who's found her home in Manchester. Currently reading law at the University of Manchester.