This year has proven to be an important one for Best Coast, with the release of the group’s third record California Nights revealing a band that is unafraid to challenge themselves and grow. And while there has predictably been a small yet overly-vocal group of fans wishing that Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno would stick to their lo-fi roots, there are others like myself who have been thrilled by the progression in sound the band has made over the past couple of years.
Sadly, the energy and excitement of California Nights is somewhat missing from their Splendour Sideshow at the Corner Hotel, with the band delivering a set that, while enjoyable enough, can’t help but feel a little by-the-numbers.
Opening with ‘The Only Place’ (from the Jon Brion-produced album of the same name), the band makes its way through a selection of tracks that is hard to fault, with songs such as ‘Heaven Sent’, ‘Fine Without You’, ‘Do You Love Me Like You Used To’ and ‘Crazy for You’ offered up in quick succession. Sound-wise, the band are also on point, with Cosentino’s vocals, in particular, coming across as strongly here as they do on record.
Despite this, however, it is hard to shake the feeling that something is missing, with both the band and the audience seemingly a little too mellow for their own good. At various points, I spot certain groups scattered throughout the room conversing amongst themselves, instead of paying attention to the stage above them. This, it goes without saying, is something you absolutely don’t want to see at a rock show.
Interestingly, it is when Best Coast decide to focus on their most recent material that the crowd seems to become re-invested in the on-stage action, particularly during ‘Feeling OK’ and the excellent ‘California Nights’. The response to these songs, if nothing else, is an encouraging sign that the group’s penchant for 90’s-influenced power pop of late has not done their career any kind of disservice whatsoever.
As the band begin to wind down towards the end of their set, more than a few in the audience opt for an early exit. Those who decide to stick around, however, are rewarded with an encore consisting solely of early Best Coast staple ‘Boyfriend’ - a song that many in the room have obviously been hanging out for the entire evening.
Following this short but sweet finale, the band members depart the stage for the very last time, leaving a room of happy, if slightly-underwhelmed fans in their wake. Still, it is unlikely many in tonight’s audience would go as far as writing the show off completely, given that the generous twenty-song set was ultimately an impressive reminder of just how many great tunes Best Coast has been responsible for over the course of their six short years together. And it is for this reason alone that they are still a band to be celebrated, even on their off-nights.
Words by Ben Mengal
Photography by Tim Doig