Best Coast / Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Nü Sensae Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC May 23

Best Coast / Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Nü Sensae Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC May 23
Best Coast are one of the most blogged-about indie acts of the past few years, but their latest Vancouver show suggested that the buzz might be wearing off for Bethany Cosentino and company. This gig was originally scheduled for the spacious Commodore Ballroom, but it was eventually downsized to the Biltmore Cabaret. And even in this far smaller venue, the room was noticeably below capacity.

Those who showed up early witnessed a fiery set from local trio Nü Sensae. Their sound was pure violence, with every song marked by blistering tempos and eardrum-melting distortion. This made for an impressively cathartic display, even though many of the onlookers seemed a little miffed.

After that, fans had to sit through Unknown Mortal Orchestra, whose groove-based psychedelic tunes were pleasant enough, but their go-nowhere song structures and echo-soaked vocals missed the mark.

Finally, Best Coast took the stage, with core members Cosentino and Bobb Bruno flanked by a drummer and bassist/guitarist. They opened with the title track from the recent sophomore LP The Only Place before shifting into a number of slower, heavier numbers, but it wasn't until the peppy back catalogue cut "Crazy for You" that the energy in the room lifted.

This proved to be a trend, as the band's upbeat older material fared far better than the newer ballads. Following a wonderfully sunny version of "When the Sun Don't Shine," the polka-dot-dress-wearing Cosentino said, "We're going to play a couple slow ones," prompting many audience members to respond with a loud groan.

Just as troubling as the energy-sapping slow songs were the lack of vocal harmonies, which meant that the live arrangements lacked the depth of their studio counterparts. Since Best Coast rely on hired guns to flesh out their live lineup, why not hire a drummer and bassist who can also sing backup?

Still, this didn't matter so much when the band capped off the show with the crowd pleasers "When I'm with You" and "Boyfriend." Sure, these probably would have sounded even better with a few hundred extra fans singing along, but it made for a satisfying end to a rather up-and-down evening.