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How does a band return from a recording hiatus that could have permanently displaced it from the audience's eye? If you are Zach Condon and Beirut, you just go about your business and pick up where you left off three years earlier. The group's First Listen Live show at Brooklyn's intimate Bell House on a rainy September night, a concert debuting many of the songs from the brand new No No No, its first album since 2011, showed that Beirut works through its obstacles. Maybe it helps when the initial idea behind a band is ahead of the curve to begin with, no?
When Condon's Beirut first came to prominence in 2006, it emerged from Santa Fe with a fully conceived, pan-global folk sound unlike any indie sensibilities popular on the day. Zach's trumpet and flugelhorn playing was informed by local Mexican mariachi horns, his engagement with the Roma brass bands of the Balkans, and modal jazz changes via a percolating bossa nova; he favored timeless instruments (ukuleles, accordions) and images, to the rush of the modern; and the songs his quavering tenor delivered, also traveled the old continents. Live, the group grew into a formidable sextet, heavy on keyboards, horns and harmony, a world onto themselves.
At the Bell House, Beirut ran down its entire career before a sold-out audience, and the songs from No No No, the band's fourth studio, fit snuggly alongside the older material, even as it heralded directions new and familiar. "Perth," for instance, featured a touch of the Memphis soul energy, with Ben Lanz's trombone adding a brassy bump; "Fener," a song about a neighborhood in Istanbul, is built around the motorik beat interplay between Aaron Arntz's keyboards and Nick Petree's drums, before dropping down into a great g-funk slink, guided by Condon's Moog. So seemingly apart from Beirut's musical environment, yet, here they were, a natural part of it, making the audience sway endlessly. The hiatus, it seems, simply made full hearts grow fonder.
Director: Mito Habe-Evans; Producer: Saidah Blount; Videographers: Christopher Farber, Mito Habe-Evans, Lani Milton, A.J. Wilhelm; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Editor: Mito Habe-Evans; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann; Special thanks to The Bell House.
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