Best Coast at the Majestic Theater – Madison, WI – July 25, 2012
Setlist: (true love is using a photo of the actual setlist instead of typing)
Where did price of concert tickets fall so far out of whack with the rest of society? For the price of about 3.5 tacos you could go watch the Dark Knight Rises for a 3rd time, or be front and center at one of the finer venues in the midwest standing a mere five feet from Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno of Best Coast. For $14, really? The low price of live, exuberant, high-quality indie rock is a financial anomaly folks. It’s the 2nd greatest bargain in the world behind ramen noodles. I would pay $44 to see this show. Quite frankly, to be within five feet of watching Ms. Cosentino belt away into the mic for 75 minutes I would pay $64. Add into that $14 value were two extremely fine opening acts – both Wisconsin bands. Those Darlins look poised to give the Dum Dum Girls a run for their money with a charisma that was exciting, frightening and had unexpected hints of awesome all at the same time. Aside from being unanimously accepted by the entire audience Those Darlins were the perfect music bridge into the beauty of Best Coast.
Musically, it’s a wonderfully fun debate deciding which Best Coast album is better: the first one (Crazy For You) or the new one (The Only Place)? I vote for the latter, even though the first album is enormously engaging and very lo-fi. Combining a sound that has California draped all over it along with beats and simple melodies that harbor back to the Beatles pre-Sgt. Pepper days (Revolver and Rubber Soul) make their music both perfectly endearing and innocuous. This is not the music they’ll be playing on Occupy Wall Street, but it will be what the kids are playing at the kick ass venue around the corner thank you. Where some album reviews kicked rocks about Best Coast’s more polished sound on The Only Place it appears be a simple case of improved recording facilities. If you want a garage sound on the new album, purchase some $12 speakers and go listen to it your garage. The new, polished sound is fitting of the pop melodies and the tracks from both albums merge together perfectly in the live setting – leaving behind in the dust any notion that the first record had a more attractive lo-fi sound. Best Coast is also one of those rare groups that I have a hard time comparing them to, especially Cosentino. And if an obvious comparison doesn’t grasp me in the first five seconds of thinking about it then it’s not apparently obvious. That lack of specific precedent simply makes their music more thrilling as the inevitable countdown to the album #3 with that cute little bear cub on the cover hopefully.
After reviewing 50+ various live shows in the past 14 months it’s easy to decipher what often separates the good bands from the great ones. What the finest bands in the world have in common is a lead vocalist that is drop-dead stunning in their delivery (Jim James, Thom Yorke, Jeff Tweedy). Lots of people can play guitar and write songs. To deliver them onstage with a voice that resonates is a rare feat. This is where Best Coast shines. Bobb Bruno provides this wonderful, oddly fascinating backdrop to the front and center command of Cosentino. Forty-five minutes into the show Best Coast flows beatifully from an extended guitar coda-intro into ‘Our Deal’/’Do You Love Me Like You Used To’. With Cosentino’s voice gliding along it’s one of those rare moments of pop/rock bliss. It’s that part of the night that separates it from the rest of the performance and glides a few feet above the stage. That bliss hits at different spots for different fans. I’ve seen it a few times before; such as Iron and Wine doing ‘Tree By the River’, Death Cab For Cutie doing ‘Title and Registration’, St. Vincent singing ‘Cruel’, Belle and Sebastian singing ‘Another Sunny Day’, etc. Or just imagine the Beatles standing in front of you doing ‘Penny Lane’ in 1967 (which they never did because the Beatles never toured in support of their last 6 albums) or Fleetwood Mac singing ‘Gypsy’ in 1978. Pure pop bliss is rare to pull off and Cosentino pulls it off at the age of 25. No wonder why Drew Barrymore got the memo!
For Cosentino and Bruno I say close your eyes and charge forward. A great interview with Cosentino by Anthony Carew displays some sensitivity Cosentino had towards negative critics. Have no fear Bethany. I’d be the first to hand a drowning Nickelback producer a glass full of water and a smile so we do love to pick on the ugly kids. But the albums by Bruno and Cosentino are a one-two punch breath of fresh air away from the over-produced 68-minute logjams released each week that you get bored of after 13 minutes. While we look forward to our next $14 album from Best Coast in the years ahead we’re more pysched about that next $14 live show bargain where we try to capture our 10 minutes of pop bliss again. (oh wait, that’s two days from now – July 28th in Minneapolis)
Referenced article: Bethany Cosentino interview with Anthony Carew