Beirut filled the Wiltern to the brim with happy bodies and rich sounds on their March 5th show. Each of the six band members claimed a section of the stage for themselves and their respective reserve of instruments. Zach Condon himself sang, played horns, a synth, and a ukulele. The rest of the band had an accordion, a trumpet, a trombone, maracas, a tambourine, multiple keyboards/synths, an upright bass, an electric bass, and drums in their rotation. Beirut took us on a whirling tour of their repertoire, bouncing between songs on their February 2019 album Gallipoli and their previous releases including March of the Zapotec and Real People Holland (2009), The Rip Tide (2011), No No No (2015), Elephant Gun (2007), and their first breakthrough album, Gulag Orkestar (2006). Their international influences rang loud and clear in the live performance. Every melody invited a different part of the world, sometimes from different time periods, to dance. Spanish-sounding horn compositions lit in fierce red evoked visions of matadors in my imagination. The accordion called on memories of old dance halls. Though I had a hard time discerning the lyrics, the vocal harmonies blended together in an equally ethereal fashion.
The crowd of dominantly 30-50yr old hipsters stood attentively, not singing along, but really absorbing the sound. The Wiltern anticipated their audience, as they blocked off the left and right GA wings to become VIP dining areas. Despite the Wiltern’s ornate art-deco architecture, the GA concert experience felt like an intimate backyard show. The crowd, the band, and the stage setup nurtured this homey vibe. I witnessed this sense of community when some standing space opened up that both I and a man went to fill. We barely bumped one another and both of us started profusely apologizing, insisting the other person and their guest take the better spot. Meanwhile, on stage, between immense horn riffs and melodious belting, Zach Condon was a bashful guy. Whenever the crowd would applaud at full force, he would go to address us, but could only turn away from the mic and laugh, like a teenager who had just played his first song for his friends. Every time he spoke, he thanked the audience in either Spanish or English. In addition to the friendly crowd and Condon’s grateful demeanor, Beirut’s lighting set up aided the vibe of the private performance. Hanging from their traditional, full scale lighting set up, Beirut also had staged string lights dangling from the rig that would change colors according to the song.
The show’s color palette appeared to be inspired by New Mexico, Zach Condon’s home state. Condon himself sported a shirt bearing the New Mexican flag as ambers, oranges, reds, yellows, and blues flooded the stage, all the desert colors bleeding into one another. This natural palette of their earlier, predominantly orchestrated pieces, starkly contrasted to the lilacs, purples, and bright white lights that appeared during their later, more synth-heavy songs. Some of the lights were angled to cast Condon’s large shadow against the backdrop. The music, like his shadow, was larger than life.
— Jordan Kessler, DJ