Beirut Are Intoxicatingly Charming at Radio City Music Hall

October 2nd, 2015

Beirut – Radio City Music Hall – October 1, 2015

Last night, Radio City Music Hall hosted a gaggle of long-loved musicians, and by gaggle, I mean the six gentlemen who make up Beirut, Ethiopian keyboardist and accordion luminary Hailu Mergia and a few extra string players for good measure. Mergia kicked off the night with rich, funk-laced Ethojazz. His decades-long career began when he formed the Walias and started playing the nightclub scene in early-’70s Addis Ababa. He relocated to Washington, D.C., a few years later in order to make a name for himself outside of the brutal Ethiopian dictatorship that ruled then. Ever since his move to the States, Mergia has been recording music and performing here and there. Last night’s audience watched him and his bandmates intently as they performed a wonderfully jazzy, zigzagging set.

After a brief intermission, the velvety curtains onstage rose to reveal Beirut, enveloped in gorgeous blue-hued shadows. The band’s hiatus from recording and performing has only made their fans’ hearts grow fonder, as was evidenced by uproarious applause throughout the music hall. Zach Condon and his bandmates knit together an hour and a half of material both new and old. They gave plenty of stage time to their new album, No No No, and pulled out older favorites, like “Santa Fe,” “Nantes” and “Scenic World.”

A trio of string musicians, perched stage left and jumped in to support various numbers, flanked the band. The set was filled with perfectly synchronized brass, heavy drums and Condon’s signature wistful vocals. At some point, the audience had had enough of sitting down. Condon acknowledged that, and bade us to get up and dance, which we promptly did. Beirut have an aura of splendid playfulness, and their energy was completely intoxicating. They will undoubtedly continue to charm us with their intricate, frolicsome music. —Schuyler Rooth | @SchuylerSpeak