LIVE: Best Coast @ Upstate Concert Hall, 7/31/16

Review by Steven Stock

Bethany Cosentino left California for a brief stint attending college in New York City – and promptly realized how much she missed the West Coast. While her band Best Coast has definitely changed and grown over the course of three albums and one EP, moving from the boy-crazy lo-fi presentation on their 2010 debut to the burnished introspection of last year’s California Nights, there’s a recurring California vibe to much of the band’s material.

Superficially it seems like breezy, lightweight pop music, with conventional song structures, melodic guitar hooks and gossamer backing harmonies. If the Beach Boys and the Go-Gos (who chose Best Coast to open several dates on their tour last month) made a baby, Bethany Cosentino would be her name – and Stevie Nicks would be an apt midwife.

Listen closely though, and you’ll discern that Cosentino sees more than sunshine and rainbows – after all, “In My Room” is as integral to the Beach Boys’ legacy as “Surfin’ U.S.A.”

“California Nights” begins:

“I stay high all the time just to get by
I climb into the sky, and my eyes they cry
California nights make me feel so happy I could die
But I try to stay alive
I never wanna get so high
That I can’t come back down to real life”

For their performance at the Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, Cosentino and guitarist Bobb Bruno (the core studio duo) were joined by a second guitarist, bass and drums, with Cosentino occasionally contributing some guitar as well. The band had a full, well-balanced attack that dramatically enhanced the original lo-fi presentation of first-album material, such as the bracing mid-set salvo of “When I’m With You,” “Crazy for You” and “Goodbye.”

That first album (Crazy for You) and last year’s California Nights provided most of the setlist, although Best Coast did play the sprightly title track from 2012’s The Only Place (with its lovely refrain, “Why would you live anywhere else?”) and “Fade Away” from their 2013 EP.

If you enjoyed the show you may want to check out Cosentino’s twitter feed as well: she has just one crystalline question about Donald Trump’s debate performance.

Bratty B
The Only Place
Heaven Sent
So Unaware
Who Have I Become
California Nights
When I’m With You
Crazy for You
In My Eyes
Fade Away
Feeling OK
Our Deal
When the Sun Don’t Shine
When Will I Change

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