There’s no denying that Best Coast’s star is on the rise. The sun-drenched, melodic tunes from the Los Angeles duo’s recent sophomore album, “The Only Place,” are destined to become indie kids’ soundtrack of the summer and will likely punctuate feel-good ads for products designed to appeal to exactly that demographic. The band has rapidly ascended from playing small local clubs and art spaces to headlining sizable theaters across the country. The significance of this was not lost on frontwoman Bethany Cosentino, who repeatedly conveyed her disbelief Friday night at the Wiltern. “The Wiltern – this is crazy,” she told the audience. “I’m gonna keep saying that throughout the night because this is super crazy.”
Cosentino and multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno seemed completely at ease in front of the hometown crowd, which erupted when they took the stage. The band, which was augmented to a four-piece, focused heavily on material from their recent Jon Brion-produced album during their set. Best known for his work with Fiona Apple, Kanye West and Aimee Mann, Brion gave their sophomore effort a slick pop polish and smoothed out some of the rough edges of Best Coast’s earlier work, removing many of the distorted guitars that gave their first album, “Crazy for You,” a lo-fi, garage-rock vibe.
The catchy melodies and ’60s girl group influences of their debut are still intact, and when the band launched into the new album’s upbeat title track — a loving ode to California that boasts “We’ve got the ocean, got the waves, got the ocean, got the babes” — early in the evening, the crowd went wild.
But about 20 minutes later, it became achingly apparent that Best Coast’s performance, as well as the songs themselves, lacked teeth. One tune blended into the next, and Cosentino’s mild-mannered delivery was not particularly engaging. Even Brion’s guest appearance playing guitar on a few tracks including “Last Year,” didn’t do much to invigorate the proceedings. Cosentino’s pleasant voice lacks range, and her lyrics, which rarely look beyond the confines of her own immediate life experiences, often come off as trite and cliched. That said, Best Coast worked hard to give the crowd what it wanted, and interspersed several fan favorites including “When I’m With You” and “Boyfriend” into their 90-minute set.
Perhaps Cosentino has become an unlikely hero for many teen and twentysomething girls because she’s an affable “every girl” and it’s easy to relate to lyrics such as, “I wake up to the morning sun, When did my life stop being so fun?” But it’s hard not to compare her to her remarkable contemporaries Florence + the Machine, St. Vincent and Regina Spektor — strong women making a name for themselves with diverse songwriting, incredible vocal range and daring live performances. Best Coast’s aspirations are far less ambitious, and while there’s nothing wrong with writing catchy tunes about pining away for boys or feeling alienated from your parents, here’s hoping the band can evolve beyond amiable, innocuous bedroom pop.