July 18th, 2008
A few months back I gave Little Beirut high marks for their wonderful new album, High Dive- a tuneful match of clever songwriting and solid performance. Their live show was easily equal to the recorded version.
Back in the ‘90s, there was a band called Silkenseed who played around town, having migrated to Portland from their roots at Tulane University in New Orleans, where they were known as Geraldine Fischer. Lyricist and lead vocalist Hamilton Sims were joined by guitarist Edwin Paroissien (and whom penned most of the band’s music) along with guitarist Carlos Marcelin and drummer-extraordinaire Eric Flint.
Around the year 2000 the band broke up- with Sims and Paroissien exploring professional careers, while Marcelin and Flint migrated to the unusual trio- Sally Tomato. Sally Tomato recently concluding a short run of an ambitious self-penned rock opera, “Toy Room,” a DVD release of which is expected this Fall.
Sims and Parossien re-grouped as Little Beirut in 2004 with release of their first album, Permanent Kiss. They released their second album, High Dive in April of this year. Comparisons to Nada Surf or French Kicks are fair. The band has a knack for a pop hook, with solid instrumental execution.
The group proved themselves to be far more than a studio outfit, delivering a tight set of songs drawn mostly from the new album. Sims is no novice around the microphone. As a singer, he is smooth and purposeful- with a warm crooning voice, reminiscent of the Killers’ Brandon Flowers or Matthew Caws of Nada Surf.
While all ten songs in their hourlong set were tight and well-performed, standouts included “She’s A Martyr, with Paroissien’s guitar calling to mind the work of Editors’ Chris Urbanowicz, coupled with stalwart bass by John Trause. “Acid Wash Soul” benefited greatly from Alex Inman’s hard-hitting drums; and from solid backing vocal harmonies from Trause and Paroissien.
“Belle de Jour,” a beautiful song, had a Roxie Music feel, slow and deep, with Sims divining a wonderful vocal worthy of Brandon Flowers. Paroissien added a striking guitar section near the end of the song. Passionate and powerful. Equally great was the love song to Condoleeza Rice, “Love During Wartime,” with its slightly reggae feel and great hook of a chorus.
Little Beirut are a very professional pop band. There are no dull edges- every angle sharpened to a shard, every song hewn into a fine sonic sculpture. They are well worth catching whenever the opportunity is afforded the erudite Portland club-goer.