Best Coast at First Avenue, 7/31/13
Photo by Joanna Fox
with Prissy Clerks
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of Best Coast brought their well-rehearsed, sun-soaked sound to First Avenue last night, providing a fitting soundtrack to an unseasonably mild late-July evening. For those of us who dread the late season brew of heat and humidity, the end of July reminds us that August is lamentably just around the corner, and with its arrival, the dog days.
Best Coast's seventeen-song, hour and fifteen minute set provided further reminder that the glories of mid-summer are indeed fleeting. In the wake of a few strong EPs, Best Coast released their debut album Crazy for You in 2010. Celebrated for its carefree ethos as much as for its simple clarity, Crazy for You holds up as one of the better pop albums in recent memory.
Photos by Joanna Fox
In the two years following the release of Crazy for You and the band's sophomore effort The Only Place, the slump dug in deep. In a pre-release interview, Cosentino announced "seriously, this record is emo -- get ready for it." Ugh. This record - The Only Place - is not emo, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would acknowledge it as a success. The considerable sonic and recording resources poured into the production of The Only Place did nothing to signal forward momentum for Best Coast. Crazy for You will never be celebrated for its lyrical depth, but the longing, impulsive spirit at its core is more compelling than anything you'll find on The Only Place.
Best Coast took the stage -- slowly -- letting Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" reach its inevitable crescendo with the crowd belting out the obligatory "I love you baby!" Without a greeting, the band made its way through "Goodbye," "Crazy for You" and "Summer Mood," all from their debut album. Cosentino's sultry voice was front and center as she ambled through the "Summer Mood" refrain, reminding the crowd how rich her vocal talents are. Four songs from The Only Place followed, including the truly unfortunate "The Only Place," but also the pining, oozing ballads "Last Year" and "No One Like You."
The back and forth between old material and newer material continued throughout the set, which included two tracks from Best Coast's forthcoming EP. Like the material on The Only Place, these newer songs, especially "Fear of My Identity," offer greater lyrical variety and a more polished sound, but they don't capture summer in a bottle the way Crazy for You did in 2010. The band was at its best last night when revisiting earlier songs, most notably "Our Deal" and "Honey," a pair of burning ballads that put the spotlight squarely on Cosentino's voice.
Cosentino grew chattier as the set continued. At the end of "Our Deal," she mentioned a recent tweet in which she explained that the song was about George Costanza and the "deal" with pigeons. While there's surely a more substantial foundation to this striking song, the joke is worth revisiting in this context. The joke also reminds us of the dorky, hesitant romanticism that defines the best of Best Coast. The humor continued into the redundant two-song encore. Before diving into "Boyfriend," Cosentino told the audience, "This song is about a boy. Duh, no shit. I wrote it. Of course it's about a boy." She added how honored the band was to be playing on the same stage as "the one-and-only...Aphex Twin."
Photos by Joanna Fox
These moments of levity offset less inspiring moments in which the band plodded through unnecessary "hard rock" song intros that cannot be found on album. Best Coast has been largely touring the same sound for more than three years, and you can't fault them for indulging in a bit of stylistic digression. That said, these brief passages fell somewhere between awkward and exasperating, lengthening an already long set. Best Coast may indeed be in need of a break from its endless summer, but their forays into darker territories last night weren't exactly "Under the Big Black Sun" or "Holiday In the Sun." They're better off leaving half-baked ideas in the studio until they've had a chance to evolve.
The dog days are upon Best Coast, and the band needs to recapture the essential quality that made their earlier work shimmer. Until then, the old material will continue to dominate their live shows, as it did last night. It's a question we all ponder: summer is over, what's next? Most of us have the luxury of keeping the answers to ourselves. Best Coast has to put it on record in the studio. Here's hoping that the third time is a charm.
What they wore: The band was in all black, with a few hints of dark blue; an ensemble that would have made Ad Reinhardt swoon. Cosentino's Oakland Raiders T-shirt hung effortlessly over a snug pair of short shorts, and her yellow guitar provided a contrasting burst of color.
The crowd: Happy to spend more than an hour with the band, especially the two drunk girls next to me on the balcony. They were having a lot more fun than I was.
Crazy for You
The Only Place
No One Like You
How They Want Me To Be
Fear of My Identity
When the Sun Don't Shine
Let's Go Home
unknown song from forthcoming EP
I Want To
Something In the Way
When I'm With You
Each and Every Day
Do You Love Me Like You Used To (encore)
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