After being cooped up in Auckland for a couple of years it’s appropriate that The Beths give us a lesson in ornithology halfway through this gig. Keen to promote the less flamboyant fauna of their native New Zealand we hear all about the alpine parrot and how it should really be more loved. Bit like The Beths then.
Antipodean accents always seem perfectly suited for happy indie pop. Auckland and Melbourne may be as geographically close as London is to Athens but there are times when Elizabeth (Liz) Stokes perky delivery is reminiscent of 1990s Aussie indie popsters Frente! Her happy vocals bring instant cheer.
When Liz asks “How’s your Monday going?” even the moodiest souls seem to melt and beam back at her. Havoc and hell could rip through Kentish Town but you feel The Beths will see you through it all.
Opening with I’m Not Getting Excited is a shrewd move with it’s fast punky guitar immediacy. Its a bold statement. The sharp, silent break still fools most though and there’s some premature applause. The Beths have hardly started though – they’ve come a long way for this. Like about 11000 miles… and they want to savour this headline show.
So there’s some jolly jangly pop like Happy Unhappy and there are punchy songs like the swift and energetic Uptown Girl too. The Beths are definitely no pushovers. The song writing is strong and both the 2018 album Future Me Hates Me and the 2020 follow-up Jump Rope Gazers are melodic, power pop gems. Songs which the likes of Ben Folds would have been extremely happy – and lucky – to write. Talented then.
There seems to be an over-representation of geeky couples present. Befitting for a band with such gorgeous offbeat love songs like Little Death “you say my name, my legs support a little less, my tongue becomes a little mess…”. Loved-up nerds are most welcome here. It’s a pleasant phenomenon and a change to the too cool for school hipsters over at the East London venues. Seeing the support bands dancing in the photo pit is another sure sign this is a friendly and fun unpretentious band.
The Beths four part vocal harmonising is a vital part of their charm but Whatever brings so much audience participation – “whatever, yeah – whatever!” – that the band are almost rendered redundant. The Forum is pulsating. The Beths don’t even let a little guitar tuning get in the way as the Liz tune-up is disguised through a relay of introductions to the band. So Liz announces bassist Ben, who points out drummer Tristan, who gives way to lead guitarist Jonathan and who finally pours praise back on Liz…who has now finished tuning. It’s a smart routine.
There’s more Auckland charm later with Liz sweetly asking “since we know each other now – do you mind if we do a new song…this is Silence Is Golden…” – a crashing rocked out epic with Liz not so much singing but launching a stream of consciousness from the mic. Glorious.
For The Beths it was their long-awaited springtime after what must’ve seemed like a two year winter. The Beths shared their joy – and like the daffodils placed across the stage – their innate enthusiasm blossomed. Not sure they were really happy unhappy after all!