Live Review: A Less-Stoned Best Coast Grows Up (and Into a Great Live Band) at Bottom of the Hill

initiated.

Best Coast
The She’s
Night School
Phoebe Bridgers
Bottom of the Hill
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015

Better than: Drinking a Zima on Venice Beach.

First, let me make it clear that the Best Coast of 2015 is not the same band as it was five years ago. Yes, the theme of California love runs deep and the band’s surf pop hooks are still their signature staple. But people change. Lead singer and guitarist Bethany Cosentino doesn’t just sing about getting high and her love for her cat Snacks, anymore. That image seems to be entrenched in a lot of people’s minds since the band’s debut LP, Crazy For You, made a lasting impression on the indie rock world back in the summer of 2010. But that’s an anachronism now, and it has been for a long time.

[jump] The duo of Cosentino and multi-instrumental straight-man Bobb Bruno make up the band, but it’s Cosentino’s outspoken voice on Twitter and Instagram that’s the face of it. Her thoughts on ’90s sitcoms (I finally know someone who loves Frasier as much as I do), the women-led music groups from Fleetwood Mac to TLC that left big influences on her and her love of Del Taco never cease to entertain me.

Last night held true to my theory that Best Coast gets better with age, as they took to the stage at Bottom of the Hill to promote their third record, California Nights. Due out in May on Harvest Records, an imprint of Capital, it’s the group’s first release on a major label.
Cosentino looked tired, but it was hard to blame her considering the band didn’t take the stage until 11:30. But she was sincere and earnest, and didn’t let any perceived exhaustion slow the group’s performance down. Best Coast was sharp for their 75-minute set, jamming through a lot of their early work while incorporating three new songs from their upcoming record. The set was tight and focused, and the sold-out crowd was energetic and engaged throughout, even as the clock ticked close to one in the morning.

This was one of the first times on tour Cosentino was able to go hands-free for a few songs, and it really allowed her to show off her vocal abilities. The band’s earlier work is mostly low-fi and muffled, doing Costentino’s voice a disservice. The duo was backed by a drummer, a bassist and another guitarist who acted as swingman on the keyboards. It’s by far the fullest sound the band has played live.

The standout performance of the night was “Feeling OK,” a track off California Nights, thanks to the band’s instrumental cohesiveness and Cosentino’s deeper personal lyrics. Best Coast played a lot of their crowd pleasers, as well, including “When I’m With You,” “The Only Place” and deep-cut “Bratty B” before finishing with their biggest hit, “Boyfriend.” The band didn’t even pretend to do an encore – Cosentino told the crowd they weren’t going to bother with one. When someone in the crowd demanded one more song, she looked up and smiled: “we  have three more for you.”  I feel like I’ve watched Cosentino grow up on stage since I first saw her and Bruno perform at their 2011 Noise Pop show at the Regency Ballroom. Her bangs were prominent, nearly covering her eyes, and she was so high she had to skip a song on that night’s setlist because she couldn’t remember how to play it. She was definitely into her “I really love weed” phase. But that was years ago.

Now, after being a spectator for a handful of their shows since then, it’s clear they’ve become much better performers. The band’s maturity grows with Cosentino’s.

They’re tighter on stage, and their ambition is expanding as the band increases from two in the studio to five on stage. It’s yet to be seen if their new studio work will build on their earlier releases, but it’s a fact that they’ve never been better live.

Critic’s Notebook

Best Coast’s late start was probably due to in part to having three openers, but I want to give a big shout out to the She’s. The San Francisco natives’ sunny, pop-laced hooks got a lot of cheers from the crowd, and their cover of “You Don’t Own Me” by the recently deceased Lesley Gore was a great listen.

Setlist:

Last Year
This Lonely Morning
Heaven Sent (new song)
The End
When I’m With You
Something in the Way
Crazy for You
California Nights (new song)
The Only Place
How They Want Me To Be
Our Deal
Summer Mood
Goodbye
I Want To
Feeling Ok (new song)
Honey
Each and Every Day
Bratty B
Do You Love Me Like You Used To
Boyfriend

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