Review of Beirut Live @ MTelus Montreal

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Review of Beirut + Helado Negro MTelus February 18, 2019

When I told one of my friends that I was going to Beirut tonight, they offered me a ride to the airport.  

As much as I would love to escape our ice-covered city, MTelus would not require a passport…just a valid ticket.

Like my generous friend, not many know about Beirut, the band, but those that do…know them well.  It was clear by the capacity filled venue that a sizeable amount would venture out to see them on a Monday night.

Describing Beirut’s musical style is not easy.  Imagine a world where the Mariachi band was born in France.  We would be doing shots of Red Wine along with the salt and lime, while wearing a beret…just as goofy as the Sombrero in my opinion.  

Just like the varietals of wine, music has a wide spectrum of tastes. A wine like a Burgundy is influenced by its terroir, the place it came from.  Zach Condon was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Humm…that Mariachi reference is starting to make more sense!  Santa Fe, like the title of the 5thsong in the set tonight, is where he grew up.    

For a wine, it’s not just the dirt that gives it that unique flavor. For Zach, it was his introduction to International Cinema, with its musical stylings that made a deep impact in his flavor.  His frequent jaunts to Europe also influence his sound, to deliver a taste that is unique, with a horny bouquet.  I’m talking about wind instruments here!

Montreal traffic allows drivers and pedestrians to experience the horns of automobiles, but it’s nothing like horn section tonight!   

Helado Negro

I arrived somewhere around the beginning of Helado Negro’s set. His name, in Spanish, would be black ice-cream or ice.  He was a pretty chill dude.  I’m assuming the Negro (black) would be in reference to his thick 70s influenced curly afro.  

If Beirut is hard to pin down, musically, I’m even more challenged by Roberto Carlos Lange.  His between song banter was 70s cabaret lounge singer material.  It was hard to decipher, as his demeanor was ultra-chill while he puts on his sexy voice. 

I can’t say that I got the music…it just didn’t sink in, if I have to be honest.  Maybe it was because of the two emergencies I had to deal with before making it to the show, my stress level was still at a level that would get me a speeding ticket, if they clocked my brain.

Regardless of how I felt, the audience clearly enjoyed the performance.  The trio in front of me kept saying:  “Il est tellement bon!”

As I shook his hand after the show, I told him that he would be on my radar, as he is often in Montreal.  I’m sure that with the right mindset, it would be a blast to see him again.

The mood, for the crowd at least, was chill combined with flowing energy…people thawed out enough to get ready for the main act.       


I first heard of Beirut on The Black Session album, which is seemingly a bootleg of the Radio France performance.  Sorry Zach…I didn’t know.  I bought the vinyl “Gallipoli” as a gesture of thanks for the music.  If the Black Session was on vinyl, I would have probably worn it down to a smooth black surface.

The first song was the first track off the new album with “When I Die.”  10 of the 23 songs would be from that album with the hits sprinkled around to please new and old fans.

The first song to get a big applause on the first notes was a song that gives a nod to the birth place of Beirut “Santa Fe.”  Interesting thing to note, the music video features a beach scene in a city without one.

Other highlights were again songs about faraway places like “Postcards from Italy” and “Gallipoli”, both getting quite the enthusiastic response.

The thing about Beirut’s music is that it takes you on a trip.  If you close your eyes, you can see foreign lands filled with intrigue.  Then the smile appears on your face, unavoidable, like the GST.  As people in the audience sway back and forth, I wonder how many are travelling through memories of these faraway lands.

The song Gallipoli was written in one shot after a medieval adventure through the narrow streets of Gallipoli (Italy), trailing behind a brass band procession led by priests carrying the statue of the town saint.  

This would never happen in Montreal, especially after Saint Pot-Hole was fired.

Zack’s distinctive voice was featured in “After the Curtain”, a song with only 19 words, but a depth of range.  It was awesome.

“Elephant Gun” ended with a thunderous and continuous applause.  Wow…that horn section blew it out of the park.

It was during the encore that the goosebumps came for “Nantes.”  If there was an elevator pitch song that I can recommend to get to know Beirut, it would be this one.  

The wonderful evening ended with “The Gulag Orkestar.”  

Our trip was over, we could now take off the seat belts.  Our Passports were stamped from distant lands and sounds.  While the trip might be over, we can revisit the memories through the postcard albums Zach provides for us.

Review: Randal Wark is a Professional Speaker and MasterMind Facilitator with a passion for live music.  You can follow him on InstagramTwitter and YouTube.

Photos – Ramy Elhoufy

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