Stand-Up Comedians the Beths Showed Toronto That They're Also Excellent Musicians

Phoenix Concert Theatre, February 26

Photo: Alex Hudson

BY Alex HudsonPublished Feb 27, 2023

The Beths are outstanding songwriters and tight musicians — that much wasn't a surprise when the group came to Toronto for the second time in six months, playing a sold-out show at a considerably bigger venue this time around.

But what was notable is just how funny they are. The obligatory "band member introductions" part of any show can be a bit of a drag, but the Beths turned it into one of the highlights of an excellent night, pausing for several minutes to launch into what was essentially a brief stand-up comedy set. Bassist Benjamin Sinclair was particularly hysterical, proudly declaring New Zealand to have "one of the world's great accents."

There's no question that the Auckland group's accents made their deadpan goofiness particularly funny. But Sinclair's comedic timing transcended his inherently loveable accent, as he welcomed fans to read his blog,, and invited everyone to email him at Every time he recited that mouthful of a url, the laughs in the packed room got louder.

The hilarity started with opener Sidney Gish, whose twee sing-speak delivery highlighted clever lyrics like "I'll be 30 and happy / Likely married to personified business casual khakis" (from the gorgeous love song "Presumably Dead Arm"). Her funny lyrics were supported by outstanding musicianship, as she created complex guitar arrangements using a loop pedal and impeccable rhythmic precision.

Her only misstep was inviting crowd members to talk amongst themselves while she built a song's loops from scratch — because, of course, watching her layer each section on guitar was the best part of the whole set. The warmly received performance was an impressive showcase for both her fretwork and witty songwriting.

Gish promised that the Beths would be bringing an excellent set piece with them — and that was soon revealed when an enormous inflatable fish loomed over the back of the stage. Adding to the silliness, the band walked on stage as a chiptune version of their song "Future Me Hates Me" played — making for an immensely satisfying moment when the band picked up their instruments and opened with that same song.

The songwriting from the band's three albums was on full display, with effects-soaked ballads like "Jump Rope Gazers" and "Your Side" holding up nicely against climactic anthems "Best Left" and "Little Death." Their best songs channeled the sensitive Kiwi pop of their homeland with extra alt-rock muscle — like on "Expert in a Dying Field," the title track of their 2022 album, which quite literally brought a tear to my eye with Elizabeth Stokes's devastating breakup lyrics: "I can close the door on us / But the room still exists / And I know you're in it."

What might not be fully apparent on the albums is just how tight these musicians are, with drummer Tristan Deck wowing with clicky-clacky rimshots rolls on "Out of Sight", and guitarist Jonathan Pearce (wearing a Rage Against the Machine long-sleeve) tearing into melodic solos on his Les Paul that seemed to grow faster and more technical as the show went on. And the group harmonies heard on their albums were replicated perfectly live — something that was beautifully showcased by the stripped-down acoustic ballad "You Are a Beam of Light." They absolutely nailed every song, proving just how little studio trickery is involved in their albums.

The packed room ate it up, chanting for "one more song" during the encore break. (The Beths upsold by playing two.) Given that the Beths were able to fill the room so soon after their last Toronto show proves just how many fans already know about their addictive indie pop; the fact that @breakfastandtravelupdates only has 471 followers on Instagram (as of this writing) shows that more people ought to learn about how likeable and funny they are as well.

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