Sunflower Bean // Church, Leeds // 20.11.18
With a fairly scattershot discography, I was curious to see just how a Sunflower Bean gig would pan out. I’ve often felt that they seem to collapse slightly under the weight of their enormous inspirations. This is a band which holds no shame in speaking out about such things, even going so far as to name one of their songs ‘Tame Impala’. It can lead to their indie-pop sound feeling fragmented at times and pulled in a hundred different directions. I’m pleased to say however, that Sunflower Bean delivered an extremely confident, joyful and energetic evening of music.
Two opening acts began the show. Jesse Jo Stark was an immediate burst of energy, dominating the stage as soon as she walked out. Stark had a consistently great set-list, with me particularly enjoying her song ‘Dandelion’. Miya Folick was next, focusing on a more straight-forward pop sound with clean, high-pitched vocals. She carried the energy originating from Stark’s set well and I even noticed Folick stayed behind at the end of the show to speak to people from the audience which was great.
Miya Folick (top) and Jesse Jo Stark (bottom)
Sunflower Bean walked on-stage at exactly 10pm with Cumming saying hello, before concluding “that’s enough talking” and kicking off their set with ‘Burn It’. It’s a natural fit for an opener, with its fairly aggressive nature boldly announcing the band’s arrival. The set-list here was understandably focused on their new album, but also mixed in a steady slew of greatest hits. Fan-favourites ‘Twentytwo’ and ‘Easier Said’ were stand-outs and a couple of songs, including their new single ‘Come For Me’, got the crowd particularly revved up. The band gave the crowd exactly what they came for, delivering these songs with manic enthusiasm.
It’s worth noting that even softer songs were played with force tonight. ‘Only a Memory’ had a full-blown rock-washed performance, with Cumming bringing audience interaction into the mix prompting the audience to sing lines back to her. This meant the show moved rapidly, acting as a tour-de-force of energy. Consequently, some songs were enhanced from their studio format, with some lack-lustre lyrical hooks being turned into stomping renditions where the musical momentum picked up the slack.
‘I Was A Fool’, the evening’s penultimate song, was played with perfection, allowing Kivlen’s vocals to take centre-stage, with much more clarity than the studio version and an energy you can truly only get from a live performance. It was easily my favourite song of the night, mostly due to the fantastic balance between Cumming’s and Kivlen’s vocals.
Sunflower Bean aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, nor do I believe they are trying to, but if the pop-punk ideology is something you subscribe to, then you’ll feel right at home here. Sunflower Bean have established themselves as a committed band, eager to deliver a night driven by a passionate performance. It leaves us with the question of what direction are we going to see from them next? I suppose we’ll find out when their new EP lands (25th January 2019).