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Thursday, 31 May 2012 14:57

Concert review and set list: Best Coast awakens from a surf-pop daze at the Firebird, Wednesday, May 30

Concert review and set list: Best Coast awakens from a surf-pop daze at the Firebird, Wednesday, May 30 Jarred Gastreich
Written by Robin Wheeler

Partway through her set at the Firebird last night, Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino thanked the crowd for making "our first official St. Louis show" a sell-out.

Best Coast played at the Gargoyle on September 14, 2010, but no matter. Back then they were just a small fuzzed-out Los Angeles band with lots of people assuming "Best Coast" was Cosentino's stage name.

With last night's return visit at the Firebird, the packed crowd not only knew Cosentino's name -- it was often screamed in confessions of love from male admirers between songs -- but the rest of the country's becoming familiar with the band, thanks to its new album "The Only Place" getting exposure everywhere and anywhere.

Scheduled openers JEFF the Brotherhood cancelled all their Best Coast opening dates earlier that day after Jake Orrall broke his hand. Locals Sleepy Kitty and Bruiser Queen filled the opening slot.

Best Coast opened with the title track of its new album, a fast-paced romp with lo-fi hollows akin to the style of their 2010 debut. The style doesn't change much when they move into "Last Year." It's full of heavy beats under a '60s pop melody, grunge-inspired trudging guitars and the modern barrenness of Cosentino's vocals, which dip into ghostly near-echos, even on upbeat songs.

Third song "Summer Mood" sounded a lot like the first two songs, which isn't necessarily bad. Best Coast create a very specific mood in a specific place. Longing -- for love, sun, home -- permeates most of the tracks, and the band rarely veers from this formula. In "Goodbye," again, a rumbling and deep rhythm section provides a dark foundation for a dulcet guitar riff and a bright lilt in the hollow of Cosentino's voice.

"When the Sun Doesn't Shine" continued the longing, which is more pervasive than the surf themes it's easy to slap on the band upon early listens. As the show progressed, Cosentino's vocals warmed and grew rawer, more emotive by "No One Like You" and a depressingly upbeat "When I Cry."

The band peaked with "Let's Go Home" when it broke out of sleepy surf mode with Bobb Bruno's pumped-up wah-wah guitar and solid punk-pop drums, simple and hard, without sacrificing the ethereal vocals. The song grew into an extended riff -- heavy opening to "Our Deal" that showcased Bruno's considerable talent.

New songs, like "Do You Love Me Like You Used To" expand the band's sound without moving too far from the surf roots, incorporating a catchy stop-and-go melody in contrast to the increasing vocal rawness. Thematically, it all remains the same, with the lovelorn longing continuing into "Up All Night." These slower songs seem to lose the audience, but they were drawn back by a beautifully crooned ending cushioned by rich guitar.

The set clocked in at under an hour before a encore that started strong with "I Want You," featuring more delicate and sparse guitar followed by hard beats and chiming guitar, ending in a rumble of feedback that morphed into a revved up, rocking finale to break the sleepy spell.

Bruno's guitar work continued to shine through crowd favorite "Sun Was High (So Was I)," but Cosentino's vocals were the star in the band's cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Storms." The song fits her both stylistically and thematically, perhaps giving a glimpse into the more evolved Best Coast sound of the future, if the band can move beyond their niche and into more emotionally rocky terrain.

The night ended with their two most-loved songs: "When I'm With You" connected to "Boyfriend" with an interlude of low guitar and a chiming hook. A perfect pop pair, the songs are hallmarks of youthful want. Even though they come off as a bit perfunctory, they're still a warm hug for lonely girls, seaside and landlocked.

Best Coast Set List:

The Only Place
Last Year
Summer Mood
Crazy for You
When the Sun Don't Shine
No One Like You
How They Want Me to Be
Why I Cry
This is Real
Dreaming My Life Away
Let's Go Home
Our Deal
Do You Love Me Like You Used To
Up All Night

I Want You
Sun Was High (So Was I)
Storms (Fleetwood Mac cover)
When I'm With You

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