BY MASON BISSADA
Pop-rock duo Best Coast performed at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco Saturday night, giving a powerful, fun-filled performance that displayed talent and a new-found maturity from the group.
The Los Angeles-based duo, consisting of lead-singer and lyricist Bethany Cosentino and all-around musician Bobb Bruno, has been creating beachy, easy pop music for over a decade now. Their music, previously consisting of simple-yet-addictive tracks like “Boyfriend” and “When I’m With You”, has recently assumed a more mature tone with their newly released fourth studio album Always Tomorrow. The album, which dropped last week, covers heavier subject matter such as sobriety, mental health and independence. Cosentino was forthcoming about the tonal shift during the concert, which showcased an equal balance of old and new material.
While performing “Graceless Kids,” a track off of Always Tomorrow, Cosentino took a moment to address the audience and explain the meaning of the song’s lyrics.
“The lyrics to this song are seriously about feeling like you’re not worthy of praise and feeling like you don’t understand why anyone would consider you a role model,” she said. “When I was really depressed and really going through sh-t, you guys are seriously the people that lifted me up and made me feel something.”
Clearly, there has been a jump in conceptual depth to Cosentino’s writing since she came onto the music scene with “Boyfriend” (“I wish he was my boyfriend/I’d love him to the very end/But instead he’s just a friend”). Before performing it as her encore song, Cosentino made it clear to her audience that she wrote “Boyfriend” when she was just 22, and was performing it in part because she knew it was what her fans wanted to hear. It appears as though she wishes she could detach herself from past work and focus on ideas that are important to her now. She says as much on another new track, “Seeing Red”, writing “I’m so sick and tired of writing love songs about the same unhealthy things.”
Cosentino’s desire for a mature image was reflected in her and her band’s stage setting. Entering the Regency Ballroom prior to the show, all that could be seen on stage was a neon sign that read “Always Tomorrow” in cursive letters. After a minutes-long single synth tone played and built up fans’ anticipation, the band took the stage and immediately began performing their hit “California Nights” without any prelude or introduction. Cosentino was dressed in a professional-yet-cool baby blue pant suit, her hair in a bun and her silver Stratocaster in her hand. Flanking her was Bruno, who has fully embraced the “rocker dad” look, his long grey hair flowing as he jammed on his guitar as if he was alone in his man-cave. Throughout the concert, there were never any gimmicks or tricks on stage to distract from the band. A few rotating beams of light would illuminate the stage and change colors as the group changed songs, but it was essentially a good, old-fashioned rock show that consisted of a talented band performing songs that mean a lot to them.
Cosentino’s stage presence was something to behold. Though she began the concert with a guitar, there were many songs (largely from Always Tomorrow) in which she set her instrument down and allowed her voice to stand alone. In today’s era of autotune and heavy editing, Cosentino stands as one of the few artists whose live performance outdoes the studio recording. Less memorable songs off of Always Tomorrow suddenly became bangers on stage as Cosentino belted her lyrics flawlessly, captivating her audience with an indescribable aura. Her small gestures, like holding one arm behind her back or sticking her tongue out, convey her personality and confidence without her ever having to speak a word.
With 17 songs in just over an hour of performing, Best Coast re-established themselves as an exciting group that knows who they are while simultaneously attempting to create a matured image, and Cosentino reminded fans that she is a no-nonsense, undeniable talent. She might want to move on from her musical past, but she seems to know which of her qualities make Best Coast a memorable act.