This show marked the third time I’ve been able to see New Zealand’s (power) pop sensations The Beths in the last six months. I could say that the old adage that “the third time’s the charm” works once again, but I would also say that the first two worked pretty fine as well (back in February at Webster Hall—see pics—as well as last month’s triumphant outdoor show at BRIC’s Celebrate Brooklyn Festival over in Prospect Park—see pics). To put it bluntly, The Beths are at the top of their game, the band just keeps getting better and better.
Friday’s setlist was the same as what they played in Brooklyn last month with the exception of a handful of changes in the order in which songs were played. But one would never have guessed that these were the same songs and effectively the same show which I’d witnessed then. That in and of itself is a special trait which many bands are not lucky enough to have. To put on a show over and over and to have your audience feel that each one is distinct and different from the previous is a goal which I would think every band shoots for (and not many attain).
For a band to attain that feeling of uniqueness first off, can only happen if the band is truly enjoying what they are doing and exhibiting this joy on stage. And let me just say that The Beths appear to be having a lot of fun traipsing across our fine(?) country. It is quite clear that they are humbled by the success they are experiencing here. They’re traveling lightly just as most fledgling bands do…no tour entourage, no tour bus, no equipment truck. No stagehands to do the load in and load out day in day out. It’s just the four of them, Liz Stokes (vocals and guitar), Jonathan Pearce (background vocals and guitar), Tristan Deck (background vocals and drums) and Ben Sinclair (background vocals and bass) doing it all.
And while we hear horror stories of life on the road and the grind it can become, this crew from Auckland seem to be enjoying the shit out of it. One needs to look no further than to watch the new video to their recent single, “Knees Deep” to understand how much fun they are having. While the video itself was shot back home in New Zealand, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that the band took time off at some point between shows to go bungee jumping off some bridge somewhere in the hinterlands of the US.
Another example of how much fun is being had by the crew is Pearce’s “Breakfast Blog.” Initially started as a tour blog, it slowly but surely morphed into a diary of goings on especially in the realm of breakfast foods enjoyed each day. All in all, I highly recommend it, as it’s quite an enjoyable read not only for the food porn but also to appreciate the goings on of a young band touring in a foreign country.
Having arrived in the US back in early February, playing their first post pandemic US show in Seattle on February 5th, they’ve been touring non stop since. First here in the States, then for a brief set of three shows in Australia and then off to Europe before a brief return to New Zealand in mid June. One month off and then back to the States where they’ve been crisscrossing the country virtually non stop. What makes what The Beths are doing all the more special is that here they are a relatively unknown band from New Zealand (in the big scheme of things) and they’re playing headlining shows night in and night out to packed rooms across the country. They’re not doing it as openers on a bigger band’s coattails and they’re not doing it by jumping on the big festival circuit either. Yeah, they’ve played a handful of fests, but for the most part they were smaller niche festivals and not the humongous corporate behemoths. So here they are, The Beths, doing it on their own terms, having an absolute blast doing it AND kicking ass from city to city.
As I said earlier, Friday’s show at The Lanes seemed different than my previous ones and I attribute this especially to what felt like rearrangements to many of the songs in the set. Not major changes but subtle adjustments just to make things feel fresh. Another thing which stood out and made me take notice were the vocals and harmonies. The time on the road hasn’t taken its toll on the band’s voices one bit. Liz Stokes sounds absolutely amazing and the background vocals actually sound better than ever with Pearce, Deck and Sinclair’s harmonies sounding jaw droppingly sharp.
The Beths at Asbury Lanes
Another thing which separated Asbury from all of my previous Beths shows was the abundance of teenage and pre-teen girls/young women in the audience (specifically in the front row, up against the rail). A Beths crowd, in my previous experiences, is usually a decent mix of millennials and graying Gen-Xers trying to prove their relevance in today’s music scene. While this certainly was still the case at The Lanes on Friday, the addition of those young girls, each and every one, singing along to every single word that came out of Liz Stokes’ mouth brought a great sense of purpose to the evening. This was different from The Linda Lindas and the throngs of very young girls at their shows. At those shows the band and the youngsters in the crowd are pretty much peers and contemporaries. In the case of The Beths, while the band is certainly not long in the tooth, they are well past their teenage years. It’s safe to say that Stokes serves as a role model to these young fans through her words, music and most of all her accomplishments. And that is something really cool and refreshing to get to see.
In closing, I apologize for coming across as a super fan boy, but I honestly feel like right now there isn’t much The Beths can’t do. A band which is succeeding with almost everything they touch and finding this success on their own terms no less. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they’ll be around these parts until early 2023 when they’ll be returning to Brooklyn, playing Brooklyn Steel on March 2nd. But there is good news in that their third full length studio album, Expert In A Dying Field, will be dropping on September 16th via Carpark and judging from the 3 singles released thus far, it is going to certainly live up to previous releases Jump Rope Gazers and Future Me Hates Me.
Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos and pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Setlist: Out of Sight, Knees Deep, A Real Thing, Just Shy of Sure, You Wouldn’t Like Me, Expert in a Dying Field, Great No One, Jump Rope Gazers, Uptown Girl, Don’t Go Away, Dying to Believe, Silence Is Golden, Future Me Hates Me, You Are A Beam of Light, Little Death