Sunflower Bean has garnered some criticism for being icons of indie music rather than a genuine indie band from early on. But live its eclectic, multi-genre approach to songwriting somehow works even though it hasn’t exactly translated into a break into the mainstream. What this date in the support tour for its new album Headful of Sugar showcased the idiosyncratic band dynamic beyond the broad range of sounds and songwriting styles that spans the group’s catalog. The way each member had turns to shine throughout the set and within songs and the interplay like a handing off of the spotlight and sharing support roles seemingly effortlessly and without anyone seeming to push their ego into the mix unless the moment called for it.
Shifting between styles across the set wouldn’t be possible if the trio didn’t have a command of a range of aesthetics from shoegaze, post-punk, psych, garage rock, R&B and electronic dance music. At times it could come across as a new band still finding its own sound but with songs developed to a high degree and maybe it’s intentional but this aspect of the band, there from its early tours, brings to the show a built in quality of the uncalculated, something most bands shed often by the time of their first album and certainly by the second, settling into a sound and sensibility that can feel limiting but also provides a coherence that points to stronger creative development. For now it seems Sunflower Bean realizes that the period of a band still figuring itself out can be personally rewarding. Rather than rushing to nailing what it’s about, Sunflower Bean streamlined its performances yet for this show we got to see the band bursting off the rails of its own disciplined presentation and it is in those moments that point to the group’s possibilities and creativity. Much of the set list came from the new record including opening with the title track but plenty of the highlights from earlier albums like the title track of Human Ceremony, “I Was a Fool,” “Twentytwo” and non-album track “Moment In The Sun.” Somehow none of it seemed dated because maybe, as has been pointed by various critics, this band reflected indie trends at every point in its career it also didn’t get tethered to one in following its own instincts in songwriting and the material took on the shape of the energy put into it the playing of it which felt somewhat off the cuff and in the moment even if obviously well practiced.
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