Review: The Beths Continue to Be Experts in a Thriving Field at Thalia Hall
Like every year, 2022 brought about some great things and some not-so-great things. Seeing as though we’re all about the positives here at 3CR, let me quickly list one great thing that came about in 2022: The Beths finally got noticed. Let’s say it once more for the people in the back! The Beths put out not just their best album by a mile but what many think to be the best album of 2022 with Expert In A Dying Field. Now, I’m no good at science-type-guy so I don’t really know why this album caused such a major uproar in the indie community seeing as their last album, Jump Rope Gazers, was also amazing and, without a damn doubt, my favorite album of 2020, but I can’t tell you how happy I am to see them finally getting noticed and selling out tours that they couldn’t have dreamed of one or two years ago.
The last time I saw The Beths was at the Metro sometime last year right and even though the show was good, you could easily tell that they were a bit nervous, didn’t really know the best way to interact with a crowd, and were just generally trying to find their footing as newfound headliners. This show, though? Wow. The Beths took absolutely no prisoners and brought Thalia Hall to its knees (deep) not once, but twice in a row with sold-out shows both Friday and Saturday. Of course, they couldn’t have done it without the support brought to you by Boston’s own solo heavyweight indie champion, Sidney Gish, but The Beths truly outdid themselves this time around, so let’s get into the why and how of it all.
I’ve only recently hopped onto the Sidney Gish bandwagon headed straight for the Sun and I have to say, the warmth makes these Chicago winters livable. The only word I could use to describe the feeling of listening to the music of Sidney Gish is “fun.” Rarely do I come across an artist whose music is just straight-up, unfiltered fun ranging from the beautifully bizarre to the extravagantly zany. Her live performances are no different as Sidney makes the smart business decision of having her raw chaotic energy be the only backup on stage.
Sidney started off her set with a cover of the STRFKR’s classic, “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second.” I’ve only ever heard a few STRFKR songs in my day and didn’t recognize this one but it was full of stellar vibes and was undoubtedly added to the setlist to show off her insane loop pedal skills. She then gracefully moved onto a handful of choice cuts from her 2017 release, “No Dogs Allowed,” including the joyful “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” the holy grooves of “Sin Triangle,” the sinful yearning pathos of “Persephone” and the quirky glee of my personal favorite Gish tune, “I Eat Salads Now.”
In between each song, she made sure to keep us all up to date on her current reading list, how great Chicago is, and how hard we’re all going to fall in love when we see what The Beths dragged along with them on this tour besides herself. Sidney also treated us to a performance of a brand new 2023 song entitled “Filming School” that she just released as part of a two-track Sub Pop single earlier this month. I’m not quite sure if this means we should all be gearing up for a new LP later this year but regardless, those two new tracks are some of my favorite new releases of this year and I was so glad to see her bring at least one of them on tour.
Nearing the end of her set, we were all treated to a goddess-like performance of the lyrically triumphant “Presumably Dead Arm,” a three-minute musical statement that is less of a song and more of an education on how to leave your audience’s jaws on the floor. “Not but for You, Bunny” was chosen as her final mic drop of the evening and it perfectly capped a fun, charismatic, and oftentimes inspiring set that proved you don’t need a five or six person circus going on behind you to keep the audience enamored.
If you’re a touring band and you’re not coming out on stage to an arcade-style remix of your biggest song then you’re doing it wrong. Diving headfirst into “Future Me Hates Me” is certainly a show of confidence, but it’s nothing compared to casually inflating a 15+ foot Kingfish behind you at the same time; you can’t tell me The Beths don’t know how to start a show. Moving right down the list of my favorite The Beths’ songs, “Knees Deep” came next and was an absolute highlight of the night for me seeing as I can’t think of another song from 2022 that made me smile more; no one does power pop like The Beths and simply put, no song does it better than “Knees Deep,” as far as I’m concerned.
The Beths continued on with a big ol’ handful of tracks from their newest album and it was one of those rare shows where no one was screaming to skip to the classics. With songs like “I Want To Listen”, “Head In The Clouds”, “When You Know You Know”, and “Expert In A Dying Field”, how could you ask for any more than that? They didn’t totally ignore their previous two albums, sprinkling in such greats as the emotionally cathartic “Less Than Thou” taken from their 2018 debut, Future Me Hates Me, the wildly energetic aggression of “I’m Not Getting Excited” from their 2020 album, Jump Rope Gazers, and even going super old school with “Idea/Intent”, a song from their 2016 EP, Warm Blood, recorded at a time when they were hardcore and “…used to curse” says lead singer Elizabeth Stokes.
What’s so wholesome about The Beths is that even with all their success, they are still all modest mice, never letting a song go by without reminding the crowd, “We’re The Beths and we’re from Auckland, New Zealand!” like we could ever forget! As far as surprises go, us second-night-ers were treated to a performance of “Don’t Go Away”, one of the more rousing cuts from Jump Rope Gazers, after a fan wouldn’t stop screaming for it on the first night. The band also took the time to pause and pay recognition to the giant inflatable fish behind them by asking us to come up with an appropriate name for it. In the end, we proved why Chicago has the best fans in the world by naming the fish “Sidney Fish”.
Closing out their 18-song night, we got a very out-of-the-blue performance of “You Are A Beam Of Light,” a rare somber acoustic cut taken from Jump Rope Gazers that I don’t believe they play live very often since it’s not a type of song you’d imagine a band like The Beths would ever write. However, it made for such a lovely return to the stage and an excellent transition into their last song of the night, “Little Death”, one of the most popular songs from their 2018 debut.
I can’t tell you how much stronger and more confident these New Zealanders sounded this time around and it makes my heart go all pitter-patter at the thought. This band deserves nothing but the world and I also hope Sidney Gish will bounce away from this tour with a brand new legion of fans internet stalking her every move but in a noncreepy, supportive way. If you’re in need of even more reading material post-show other than that one great book Sidney recommended that I can’t recall because I don’t even think she could recall the name of it, check out The Beths’ bassist’s tour blog for breakfast and travel updates year long. It should keep you sufficiently preoccupied until their next Chicago show, plus it’s a hoot!
All Photos by Shaela Johnston.