Best Coast in The Academy, Dublin, on October 31st 2015
First impressions count. They matter the most and last the longest. That’s one of the biggest lessons you’ll learn from Dale Carnegie in ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’… we assume, we haven’t actually read it. It has to be in there somewhere, right?
It’s certainly seems like a practice Best Coast believe in if their Halloween night Academy show is to be believed. Arriving on stage in fancy dress – Bethany Cosentino is dressed as demented doll Chucky from Child’s Play, while Bobb Bruno is the equally terrifying Colonel Sanders of fast food fame – they, together with three touring band members, crack into their two biggest songs straight off the bat.
There is nothing ghostly, ghastly or ghoulish about Heaven Sent or The Only Place, that begin the show. In fact, they are amongst the sunniest, cheeriest slices of pop-punk you are likely to see this side of 1990’s Republica. They are truly songs to bring a smile to the grimmest of spectres, but surely by beginning with two of their most renowned releases, Best Coast risk leaving the show with less of a head than Ichabod Crane (last Halloween comment we promise) come its climax.
But Cosentino & Co manage to keep up the pace. Everything is played with an upbeat, uptempo, punk edge. There is no lingering for contemplation on Fine Without You, Crazy For You or Goodbye which follow. The melancholic content of the lyrics is glossed over as it just wouldn’t fit the show.
Even California Nights is stripped of its lamenting ambience – the lyrics “California nights make me feel so happy I could die” seem disingenuous as heard on the album – for a more euphoric live outing.
The lyrics are full of heartbreak, loneliness and, well, obsession on paper or on album, but there’s nothing to suggest anything like those sentiments coming across here. In her stage presence, Cosentino seems strong, confident and happy, belying the lyrics she is cheerily belting out. And she seems more than happy to belt them out: Feel Okay, for example, sounds more Pixies than Best Coast in this setting.
Even I Don’t Know How, the slowest point of the night when it begins, gets a kick of adrenalin at the midpoint to become another sprightly pop punk number. What the slower, country-rock of the first half does is allow Cosentino to give her vocal chords their most extensive work-out of the night. And it’s an impressive performance; crisp, clear and powerful all at once.
Of course, there are problems with this constant barrage of poppy cheer. Something as breezy as this seems just too sweet to be filling. It’s so full of happy hooks and beats that there is never enough room for any emotion to take hold.
But that’s just what they want, and the eighteen song main set flies by at Mach speed. The encore of Bratty B and Boyfriend don’t really add much to proceedings, but Best Coast have brought enough cheer to keep the crowds smiling during this lowest point in the evening.