We Went There: Beirut and Helado Negro
Beirut and Helado Negro combined for the exact kind of sets that I think the Palace Theater was refurbished to host. Each group brought a sound that, while having clear reference points, showcased their expansive sounds in a way that brought the old room to life in a way that say, Roy Wilkins, would have just not been able to capture.
Opening the show was Helado Negro (Roberto Carlos Lange) who was backed by two multi-instrumentalists who jumped between sax, violin and keyboards. Each of the three band members wore t-shirts of solid primary colors, which in my mind was an intentional statement on the simple but colorful music they delivered. The band was formerly part of the Asthmatic Kitty Records, but have switched to the RVNG Intl for their forthcoming This is How You Smile LP, which drops in the coming weeks. If you know those two labels, combining the sounds they are know for actually sum up the Helado Negro sound well, bridging the earnest with the experimental.
Leaning heavily on songs from the forthcoming LP, their set was a wonderful warm up on a cold February evening, showcasing a band who I could easily see headlining this stage in the not-too-distant future.
After Helado Negro got the stuffy crowd moving a bit, Beirut (Zach Condon) delivered a precise — if a bit stoic — career-spanning set to a large crowd that somewhat surprised me in their enthusiasm for the band. Their debut album is a classic to me, and they have rolled out a pretty constant catalog over the last decade, but I didn’t realize the breadth of support they had. While their newer music is a bit more slick, it was the The Gulag Orkestar material era material that got the crowd most excited. It seemed like whenever Condon — who was backed by a solid five-piece of drums, bass/guitar, two horns and a keys — put down his horn and picked up his uke the crowd began to buzz. I wasn’t sure if it was just me, as someone whose interest has waned a bit over the years, but it seemed like everyone at the Palace yearned for his older material.
The band played a bunch of new material off their recently released LP, but honestly it was hard to pick it out from songs from his last few albums. While I still appreciate his talent and will always have a soft spot for his earlier material, I couldn’t help but wonder where Beirut goes from here as the band left the stage after the 90-minute, 20+ song set that only served to me to show that while the bulk of his catalog is good, there just isn’t a ton that stands out.
See Chris’s full photo spread HERE.