Secret Meeting score: 80
by Joseph Purcell
Just over three years ago, Beirut were one of the first acts to perform at the newly refurbished Albert Hall in Manchester. A venue that has gone on to become the jewel in city’s already buzzing musical scene.
Before Zach Condon brought his merry band to the stage tonight, Helado Negro opened the evening – sharing cuts from his wondrous new album, This Is How You Smile. Opening as the record does with Please Won’t Please, his subtle delivery is initially a little lost, with large sections of the crowd still filtering in. But Helado slowly begins to charm the crowd and by the mid point of his set, his bi-lingual pop gems result in a big ovation come the end of his set.
Over a third of Beirut’s set is dedicated to their fifth and latest long player, Gallipoli, and it’s on the second track of the evening, Varieties of Exile, that the band really come to life – Condon the centrepiece to a revolving cast of intricate and eclectic sounds.
Three years ago, Condon’s appearance in Manchester was in promotion of No No No – the only blot on their copy book in terms of critical acclaim – but tonight its title track soars along with searing horns providing the perfect introduction to Condon’s wonderfully unique brand of folk pop. While a euphoric Santa Fe, one of a number of highlights from 2011’s The Rip Tide provides another early high point of the set.
At the heart of the performance, the set does get a little lost: too many tracks descend into self indulgent, horn heavy jams. But Landslide – another standout from Gallipoli – offers a refocus, and joyous renditions of Scenic World and Elephant Gun showcase the Santa Fe native at his finest. Before the biggest crowd pleaser of the night, Nantes – tackled by Condon with his ukulele, and backed by some fine accordion work, provides another highlight – one of many during a triumphant, welcome return to Manchester for Zach Condon.