With Sombear and Step Rockets
7th Street Entry, Minneapolis
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Some shows simply click. Due to a perfect confluence of the right artist, audience, night, and venue, some performances take on a transcendent quality that surpasses the mere sum of their parts, elevating the crowd and the performer alike with a show that shatters expectations. This was the case with Betty Who's ebullient show at the sold-out Entry on Saturday night -- a vibrantly poppy performance that completely took me by surprise, as Gimme Noise admittedly was there primarily to see Sombear's first local live show.
But in the end, the night truly belonged to the irrepressible Australian singer/songwriter from New York City, who effortlessly won over the packed room and got the crowd dancing wildly throughout her charming 60-minute set, all while appearing genuinely touched with the enthusiastic response from her fans.
See Also: Slideshow: Betty Who at 7th St Entry
Sombear's 30-minute opening set proved to be a nice precursor for the headliner, as Now, Now drummer Bradley Hale's moody electronic side project finally made their local live debut in support of his terrific album, Love You In the Dark. Hale alternated between guitar and synths throughout the all-too-brief set, and was joined by his Now, Now bandmate Cacie Dalager, who added her textured guitars riffs and synths to Sombear's saturnine material. The set began with a pulsating version of the album's debut single, "Incredibly Still," which filled the small room with its seductive charms.
"We're from here and it's our first time playing here," admitted Hale sheepishly. "It's weird, but it feels good to be here." The rest of the well-paced set featured a straight run through of the first half of the record, including a dynamic version of "The Way We Are," and a sultry rendition of the title track, with Hale and Dalager's natural chemistry injecting the songs with an inviting allure. Hale was comfortable enough to share a new song he wrote three weeks ago called "Pretty Company," which he introduced self-deprecatingly, "I hope you like it, and if you don't, that's fine."
It proved to be an elegant addition to the set, with Cacie and Brad both contributing vocals to the simmering number. The set ended with a slow-burning version of "The Good," which blossomed into an expansive, sprawling number that showcased Hale's electro-pop appeal that he hopefully will share with us during another local show sometime soon.
After a lengthy half-hour wait between sets, it became clear that the packed club wasn't just there to show support to the two local opening acts, but to dance the rest of the night away with the effervescent pop confections of Betty Who (Jessica Anne Newham) and her three-piece backing band. The group were all wearing matching Varsity sweaters, which gave the lively material an old-school quality, while the sounds were decidedly modern and relentlessly upbeat, even when they frequently focused on breakups and heartache. Considering that she technically only has four songs released on The Movement EP, the crowd surprisingly still knew all of her material well and got down to each one of the band's infectious grooves.
Newham is reminiscent in both sound and looks to Robyn and Pink, and just like those two, she seems bound to play bigger rooms to an ever-growing audience. The sugary powerpop pulse of "You're In Love" and "Alone Again" emphatically got the show started, and soon enough the crowd was bouncing in time to the towering beats, and balloons materialized out of nowhere and were batted about playfully on and off the Entry stage, adding to the celebratory nature of the night. Newham was effortlessly charming, and her buoyant personality infused her material with a convivial appeal. She even vamped while doing a choreographed dance with her band, humorously busting out the Dinosaur as they all moved in time with the music.
New songs like "Right Here" and "Giving You Away" were met with just as much enthusiasm by the crowd, who clearly were swept away by Betty Who straight from the start. Newham joked that some of her songs were like "a love child between Phil Collins and Ja Rule & Ashanti." And while the overt catchiness of her numbers carried the potential universal appeal of those artists, her material is clearly influenced by "Get Into The Groove"-era Madonna (the insanely infectious "All Of You") and the Spice Girls, a band she readily admitted to loving being a child of the '90s.[page]
As she offhandedly sang "Say my name" while she was introducing an imminent Spice Girls cover, the crowd picked up on that vocal cue and spontaneously started singing the timeless Destiny's Child anthem. Newham and her band were blown away, and quickly joined the audience on an impromptu but entirely awesome cover of "Say My Name."
"I cannot believe that actually just happened," Newham proclaimed excitedly. "Fuck the Spice Girls, I should just do a whole set of Destiny's Child covers." But after declaring that Scary Spice and Ginger Spice were the "baddest bitches around," she then led the band through a joyous cover of "Say You'll Be There" that again had everybody in the club singing along in full voice, lost in the boundless spirit of the '90s jam. The ode to day drinking, "High Society," kept the energy level of the club high, with Newham making a quick exit after the song drew to a close as the crowd roared their approval.
She quickly returned and explained with a smile, "Encores kind of stress me out, because what if the crowd doesn't invite me back? So I leave my band up here so you have no choice but to invite me back." The night then ended triumphantly with her hit single, "Somebody Loves You," which really set the room off, as the crowd and the band all danced their cares away. Newham thanked the crowd one last time, declaring affectionately, "I will always come back here. Holy shit!" And surely that next time through town will be in a much larger room to accommodate the fans that will no doubt follow her there.
Personal Bias: I didn't have any. I casually checked out one Betty Who video prior to the show, but again I was there initially just to see Sombear (and Darkside, who were playing the Mainroom next door).
The Crowd: One of the most fun Entry crowds in recent memory, at the poppiest Entry show that I have ever seen.
Overheard In The Crowd: "Well, that was totally unexpected...and awesome."
Random Notebook Dump: You couldn't really get a more disparate neighboring bill than Darkside and Betty Who, which made crossing over from the Entry to the Mainroom like taking a time warp from one end of the radio dial to the other -- and perfectly illustrates the unpredictable musical appeal of First Ave and 7th Street.
You're In Love
Giving You Away
All Of You
Say My Name (Destiny's Child)
Say You'll Be There (Spice Girls)
Somebody Loves You