Beirut live at Tempodrom Berlin on February 17, 2024

Foto: © Martin Silbermann (HHV Magazin)
After overcoming crises and with a new album under their belt, Beirut, the illustrious band led by Zach Condon, are back on stage for the first time since 2019.

»Well it’s been a long time, long time now/since I’ve seen you smile.« The opening lines of »Nantes«, arguably Zach Condon and his band’s biggest hit, perfectly sum up Beirut’s triumphant comeback as a live act. For three nights in a row, Condon and his eight-piece band are back on stage at the sold-out Tempodrom for the first time in almost five years.

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He had to abruptly cancel the last tour in 2019 due to acute laryngitis, then came COVID and the pandemic restrictions, panic attacks and depression. For the current album »Hadsel«, Condon fled from his personal challenges and setbacks into the Norwegian solitude beyond the Arctic Circle.

From the Arctic Circle to the Capital’s stage

But instead of focusing on these new songs, most of which are very relaxed and calm and underline his newfound love for the organ, Condon is a realistic enough professionally to know that many in the audience will be there primarily for the Balkan brass sound that Beirut has become famous for since 2006 with the two albums »Gulag Orkestar« and »The Flying Club Cup«.

Atmospheric strings, energetic horn sections and driving rhythms, sometimes borrowing from Latin American or Caribbean grooves, perfectly underline Condon’s still soft, melancholic vocals. He also plays trumpet or ukulele. Instead of piano and electric bass, accordion and double bass are used, a guitar is (still) searched for in vain, and in between there are some waltzes.

Melancholy Voice and Unusual Instruments

Condon still seems a little shy and introverted on stage, even on the third night, which is atmospherically decorated with white trees and picture frames, windows and mirrors. Between songs he runs his fingers through his dishevelled hair and only acknowledges the audience with a brief »thank you« or a proper »thank you« when there is frenetic cheering. The audience is treated to a nearly two-hour best of show through all seven albums of this unusual indie-folk band.

From »Santa Fe« to the aforementioned »Nantes« to »Prenzlauerberg«, he takes us not only through the stations of his life and from his birthplace to his current adopted home, but also from fan favourite to fan favourite. The mixed crowd cheered and sang along so enthusiastically that Beirut were only allowed to leave the stage after two encores and a total of two dozen songs.