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Last Night: Beach House and the Walkmen at the Fonda

Beach House's "Used to Be" video, directed by Matt Amato.

The Walkmen with Beach House

The Music Box at the Henry Fonda Theatre

By Chris Martins

Following Wolf Parade offshoot Johnny & the Moon, the Fonda was filled with buzzing patrons, but Baltimore's Beach House rolled back the chatter with taut, ghostly waves of dream pop. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, accompanied by one of their rotating drummers, played a set split evenly between their two albums, but the best moments came courtesy of 2008's Devotion. Gauzey opener "Turtle Island" sounded delicate and divine, "Wedding Bell" inspired an ironically incomplete sing-along (lyric: "You're singing the only words you know"), and closer "Heart of Chambers" proved that a band can sound, almost incomprehensibly, both huge and tiny at the same time. Legrand kept the banter to a minimum and her head down, stance broad and shoulders hunched, singing in low registers that accumulated bass as they went to the rafters. Throughout the set it was impossible to make out but a few of Legrand's words; that particular clarity was sacrificed to the gods of texture, and Beach House was all the stronger for it.

The Walkmen, which has D.C. roots, opened its Inauguration Day headlining performance with "New Country," a slow-building song from last year's You & Me that, last night, found Hamilton Leithauser waxing Dylanesque over bare guitar and a four-man horn section. The brass stepped aside for the ominous "On the Water," which built to a crashing finale, while "In the New Year," dedicated to the Obamas, drove home the show's most effective motif: the duet of voice and guitar chasing each other through beat-less passages.

Paul Maroon vacillated his electric shredding to Leithauser's every soar or sotto, giving the band's noisy pop songs an element of the avant garde, and delivering explosions of drum, bass and organ. It was a long set, and those not enamored with the singer's grating wail doubtlessly had a hard time sitting through the more dissonant moments, but most ate up Leithauser's every indulgence. People actually danced for "The Rat," and the horns reached their blazing apex on "Louisiana," while "Postcards from Tiny Islands" was a show-stopper, with Leithauser bouncing around like an amped boxer between delivering his lines. The natural choice for encore, of course, was "We've Been Had," but considering the politics of the day, that might have been the only sentiment that fell flat. (Chris Martins)


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