LIVE: Sunflower Bean, live from NYC

All beaming smiles and exuberant glam rock stompers, Sunflower Bean brought a giddiness to being back on stage, radiating with a gleeful and desperate energy having been deprived of performing live for so many months now.
Posted: 11 January 2021 Words: Tom Curtis-Horsfall

“It feels extra surreal, besides the fact that there’s nobody here” gleefully sighs Sunflower Bean’s singer and bassist Julia Cumming after set opener ‘King Of The Dudes’ comes to a halt. A sigh of relief we know, having been deprived of performing on stage for this many months.

Filmed for, a station who champion talent local to the Greenwich Village area of New York, it marked the first time the trio had played together for considerable time. And their smiles beamed throughout, exuding the kind of giddiness being on stage you’d expect to see from a stunted rock band who were now, to some degree, unshackled.

Despite being together since 2013, the band still feel outrageously young - their 2018 album Twentytwo In Blue lamented reaching the age, but by then they'd already amassed a considerable arsenal of radio-friendly hits and secured enviable support slots with the likes of Pixies as well as their own lauded headline tours. Seeing them joyfully glide through ‘Twentytwo’, ‘Memoria’, and ‘Crisis Fest’ from their sophomore album made me feel even more decrepit, but you can’t deny their infectious presence. Exchanging goofy jokes, the expected sloppiness having not had a tour behind them to tighten up, their own excitement at times getting the better of them: “We’re gonna slow it down, as we’re really excited so we’re playing really fast for you guys” Cumming playfully apologised at one point.

And that presence ultimately centres around singer Cumming, who possesses a genuine ‘star quality’ for want of a better expression. Her vocal timbre switches from nostalgic and saccharine to bolshy and commanding on the turn of a dime, no better demonstrated during a delicate cover of Neil Young’s ‘After The Gold Rush’ (in lieu of their regular NY cover of ‘Harvest Moon’) which preceded stadium-ready power pop anthem ‘Come For Me’. With bass duties handed to touring member Danny Ayala, Cumming was then able to strut around freely as the bonafide front person she’s destined to blossom into.

After assuring us that they’d been working hard, Sunflower Bean brought the set to a close with the doomy rapture of a new track which revisited the stoner rock of ‘Wall Watcher’ and ‘Tame Impala’, both of which were absent from their set but implied a sludgy direction for their next era.

Though the livestream’s no-frills, low-key set-up wasn’t as spectacular as the swathe of lavish pay-per-view shows we’ve been treated to in recent months, it’s straightforward composition gave the set a tangible ‘live’ feel, where mistakes and impromptu magic moments were even more vital than playing characterless, carbon copies of their records. Which is as good as it gets for those among us yearning for live music.

To hear more from Sunflower Bean, click here.

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