Best Coast, the LA-based alt-rock duo consisting of singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bethany Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno, released their latest album Always Tomorrow in February and began the album’s tour in their home state, making their second stop at LA’s Novo on Friday, February 28.
After Philadelphia-based indie punk band Mannequin Pussy opened with raw, head-banging tracks like “Drunk II,” Best Coast began with an old favorite, the exultant eponymous track off 2015’s California Nights: “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 / And look you in the eyes and say ‘Baby, you are mine.'” Next came the chill, uplifting breakup song “For the First Time,” with catchy bass tunes and infectious harmonies.
Cosentino, who took the stage in a blue pantsuit, has a clean, clear, emotive voice reminiscent of Neko Case and Jenny Lewis. She sings in an animated, almost theatrical style, swaying from side to side, gesturing with her hands, and enunciating each word as if she’s telling a story. Bruno was equally dynamic, jumping up and down as he strummed his guitar. They were joined by Joe Bautista on guitar and keyboard, Brett Mielke on bass and background vocals, and Dylan Wood on drums.
Cosentino exudes a rare combination of rockstar energy and relatability. She spoke to the audience throughout the show in a refreshingly honest manner. “I was really in my own head, like, no one’s gonna fucking come to this show,” she admitted before performing a crowd favorite, “The Only Place,” speaking some of the lyrics, with the audience singing along to the refrain: “Why would you live anywhere else?”
The band’s frontwoman took on an angrier tone for “Seeing Red,” singing about a different side of a breakup than “For the First Time” presents: “It’s so hard / When everything you’ve ever known is gone / And it’s okay to feel weak / It’s okay to be shaky / But god, I wish that I could just move on.”
Before performing an emotional “No One Like You,” a song about persevering through relationship issues, Cosentino announced that she was playing a love song and advised the singles in the crowd to love themselves. “You’re the nicest,” she said as the audience cheered.
Best Coast gave the crowd a taste of their latest album with “Rollercoaster,” which has the same beachy rock-and-roll vibes as their old music, before treating them to the catchy “Feeling OK” and revisiting the new album with the energetic “Make It Last” — with Cosentino screaming the lyrics “We can’t let this go on any further” and “I just want you to be happy with another” — and the angsty, guitar-heavy “Graceless Kids.”
Then, Cosentino gave the audience a heartfelt thank you, referencing the turn from her anxiety-ridden party girl persona to finding sobriety in 2017, a major theme on Always Tomorrow: “You guys fucking loved me when I hated myself and didn’t know how to love myself, and you just fucking lifted my ass up. I don’t know you, but you are the sweetest.”
Of course, the crowd beckoned the band back up for an encore, during which they played two classics: Cosentino started off the fun, cheerful “When I’m With You” slowly with just her voice and guitar, then the band joined in and picked up the pace. “What do we have? Fun!” she playfully prompted the audience to yell. They closed the show with the wistful “Boyfriend.”
After people trickled out of the venue, they blasted Best Coast’s music on the street outside the Novo. I left feeling as if I’d truly gotten a glimpse into the soul of Cosentino and her bandmates. The show captured the spirit of the first song they played: through their music and performance, they’d created another breathtaking California night.