The roar of the crowd must be empowering.
After a Friday night show at Warehouse 21 that featured self-conscious remarks and hair tousling on the part of bandleader Zack Condon, Beirut brought all the energy and sound of a band comfortable with its fame to the much larger SF Community Convention Center on Saturday.
Though Condon (originally from Santa Fe) did continue his remarks about the altitude—“I still haven’t got my mountain legs”—from the previous night’s show, he appeared more confident and lithe, clapping frequently in rhythm with the band, smiling to the audience and pouncing on the microphone to sing.
He remembered to the audience that the Convention Center used to be the high school auditorium, saying, “I told myself I’d never … you can finish the rest of that.” He later corrected himself, saying that the center used to be the Sweeney Center. We’ll forgive him the error, because he dropped out of that high school.
The set list varied slightly, though with equal weight given both nights to The Rip Tide, the Brooklyn-based band’s much celebrated album that came out earlier this year. In it, Condon infuses the Balkan brass sound he’s built himself on with cabaret-like vocals and trumpet parts found in mariachi music, a holdover perhaps from his experimental Mexican funeral album, March of the Zapotec. The album also includes an homage to Santa Fe, in the form of a song titled “Santa Fe.” Beirut played it both nights. “You knew we’d get to that song eventually,” Condon said on Saturday.
The audience clapped, hands in the air, and stomped in unison to the abundant oom-pa, oom-pa moments, and far more people than I would I have thought sang along. While the band opened up for wonderfully danceable instrumentals, both nights, the majority of its material I found to be more brain than heart. It was sway-worthy, and atmospheric, but often stuck in a purgatory between moving and fun.
Like the night before, women yelled offers of love at Condon, with the addition of promises not heard at the family-friendly youth arts center the night before. The woman in front of me yelled several times that she wanted to have Condon’s babies, which he feigned not to hear, though he did crack a smile.
Later Condon told the band to make sure he went home with his wife; he felt delirious from the altitude. But the thin air certainly didn’t affect of his voice or his confidence when he told the audience he loved them too.