– The Ritz, Manchester –

It’s hard to say why some shows work and others do not. Rewind two years and Beach House, a previously unknown (to me anyway) Cocteau Twins-esque act hailing from Baltimore steal my heart in Manchester Cathedral. The setting, the sound and the light show gel completely, and the band, riding the crest of a wave of critical success, submerges the audience in the ecstasy that such a moment in time represents. It remains a seminal moment in Manchester’s potent live music history.

Tonight, it just doesn’t feel quite right, but why? The audience is largely unresponsive – except for the couple off their collective faces just in front of me who dance and cheer with the enthusiasm the band deserves. ‘Wild’, ‘Walk in the Park’ and ‘Norway’ – three of the greatest recorded musical moments of the decade thus far – pass by unregistered. Some bands just hit a glass ceiling when they reach a certain size, the choice being either to consciously transform your sound into a U2 doppelganger or disappear back into the abyss from which you came. Beach House are darlings of the critics but that doesn’t always manifest itself into popular appeal, and I suspect that their sound is a little bit too plodding and laborious for some, and you can square that live when the casual and uninformed listener could easily be left cold by music that requires time and patience for it to sink in.

And then there’s the cruel fact that some music is better listened to at home. Garage rockers, The Black Lips, for instance, despite a few exceptional tracks that are actually quite dull on record, but live they are more fun than inhaling helium on a bouncy castle. For Beach House it’s the other way round. They are better listened to from the luxury of your own bed. The setting is also questionable. Certainly the acoustics are better in The Ritz than the cathedral, but where the medieval, vaulted grandeur of Manchester’s episcopal centre fitted perfectly with the band’s dreamy ethic, The Ritz provides a bland sterile environment by comparison. Finally, husky-voiced singer Victoria Legrand gives an extremely competent performance, but I’m not really sure her heart’s in it. At the cathedral she was dancing passionately throughout, tonight she’s a muted figure.

That’s not to say that the majestic power of some of the finer songs is deadened, and as the show progresses everything intensifies…alcohol helps. ‘The Hours’ and ‘Zebra’ set hopes flying as do ‘Take Care’ and ‘Myth’. By the time the encore is in full motion with ’10 Mile Stereo’ and ‘Irene’ the show is lost in the clouds. Beach House has rescued victory from the jaws of defeat, just. Still, this doesn’t compare to the cathedral show, and it’s not been as rewarding as the many time I’ve listened to them at home or at work. But you have to go to see them live, because bands like Beach House will not survive on record sales alone. They remain one of the very best acts this side of the turn of the century, and you can be sure that the band will keep turning out music that will make the everyday grind that much more bearable. As a friend of mine said at the concert, “I still rub them”.

Chris Gilliver

I started out writing for the Manchester Evening News as a freelance journalist back in 2008. The idea that I would be given free access to music and gigs seemed somehow miraculous to me, and I proceeded to take full advantage of the situation. When the M.E.N. decided to constrict its coverage to only the very biggest bands, Simon Poole approached me with a plan to make sure that all the very talented musicians of this world that pass through and/or live in Manchester would not go unnoticed. As the New Releases editor here at Silent Radio Towers, it remains my proud duty to cast a critical eye over the music and reviews that come my way in a manner that is both supportive and fair. Above all, I strive to write as entertainingly possible. Favourite musicians include the Pixies, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Mercury Rev, Os Mutantes, The Knife, Beach House etc etc. I'm a firm believer that all genres (except nu-metal) contain music of great quality...