The lighthearted Beulah song “Silver Lining” starts with the typically wry lyric “Punk rock/was my first girl/she gave me a scar/so I have her still.” There may be no better way to sum up the band’s music than this lyric, which describes the San Francisco band’s essentials: songs about broken hearts tinged with punk but more informed by intelligent pop and laced with the strains of classic indie-rock. “Yoko,” Beulah’s recent Velocette album, explores more noisy territory, but you wouldn’t know it from this fan-friendly show, which focused on the band’s three-album back catalog with doses of “Yoko” melancholy scattered throughout.
Audience members voted online for songs to play at this, Beulah’s first show in a year and a half, which meant the show was dominated by tracks from 2001’s stellar “The Coast Is Never Clear.” A six-person multi-instrumentalist band guaranteed that those summery tunes, like “Gene Autry,” are as full and rich as their album arrangements, with muted trumpets, bopping keys lines and feedback-laden guitars all sneaking their way into loosely melodic breakup songs. An onstage camera crew filmed the whole show, prompting singer Miles Kurosky to joke more than once about one of the band’s key influences, Wilco, whose members were followed around for their “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” film a couple of years ago.
Kurosky’s got an endearing, disarming presence; like the best indie-rockers, he’s an everyman who’s not above his audience. In an extended, almost hourlong encore, he invited a fan onstage to sing a song, had another playing tambourine and took requests from the front row. To hear him sing his unrequited love songs, which usually sound more like joyous laments than cathartic drones, is to hear from a man whose glass is always half-full — and who realizes that sometimes, the only way to win is by letting everyone who will listen know you’ve already lost.