A trio of talent at The Brudenell on a Thursday night and the magnificent return of NYC’s Sunflower Bean
Words and Photos – John Hayhurst (@snapagig)
Its the 2nd time at The Brudenell in Leeds this week and the second NYC band, BODEGA were stunning so the bar is set fairly high for Sunflower Bean.
First though we have Prima Queen, the duo of best friends Louise Macphail (Bristol) and Kristin McFadden (Chicago), though they normally bulk up to a 5 -piece band when performing live. They run through a selection of relationship based dreamy shoe gaze pop and indie folk with lyrics like “Does she know the smell of shampoo in your hair, does she lie next to you in her matching underwear”. It’s not really rock n roll enough to warm us up, but nice all the same.
Lime Garden are a much more interesting proposition though, and new track Marbles is a corking catchy slice of indie pop. I’m transfixed by the different styles here, guitarist Leila Deeley is all flowing blonde hair and sensual psychedelic guitar posturing, Singer Chloe Howard does a talky sing approach – think Louise Wener crossed with Jarvis, Bassist Tippi Morgan looks like she quickly borrowed one of her Nan’s dresses for the evening, and drummer Annabel Whittle mostly looks confused and yet managed to break her drumstick on the very last beat of the final song. This interesting concoction works though, sounded very fresh danceable indie pop and I’ll definitely be back for more.
Heavily promoting their third album Headful of Sugar tonight will be slightly experimental for Sunflower Bean. Having waited out Covid in separate isolation, the band are totally fired up to be on stage together again, but also a little nervous in that they will be playing 8 new tracks in the set.
Kicking off with the title track, they really have little to worry about – Guitarist Nick Kivlen is everywhere, last time I saw him he was fairly static, wearing a white boiler suit and using a telephone mic for extra fuzziness. Tonight he appears as rock guitarist, strutting around the stage wearing a multicoloured shiny top and plenty of attitude. This new stuff feels a little more psychedelic pop rock than the glam that went before on TwentyTwo in Blue.
Having seen them several times you forget that this is a relatively young band, now in their mid twenties they are starting to expand the repertoire a little, whilst keeping the rock base on tracks like Roll the Dice. Who Put You Up to This could have been a Prince song or at least it’s a very Haim like funky dance track.
Julia Cumming is still the main focus here though, with her model looks and the flamingolike way she wraps her legs together while still playing bass and singing, you just can’t take your eyes off her. I’ve seen her grow with confidence in the last 5 years, and her voice just gets better each time. Still able to raise goosebumps when she sings Twentytwo or I was a Fool and then able to completely rock out for Roll the Dice. The biggest surprise of the night is that there is no Crisis Fest or Come For Me in the set and that she’s swapped her Rickenbacker for a Fender Bass.
If the new tracks weren’t as good as the older tunes then this could have been an error, they are an independent band and live or die by album sales position on week one so I can understand why there was some extreme plugging tonight. However, the new album Headful of Sugar is a must hear when it is finally launched in May, and make sure you catch them live if they return later in the year.
Sunflower Bean Setlist:
Headful of Sugar, In Flight, Twentytwo, Roll the Dice, Baby Don’t Cry, Easier Said, I Don’t Have Control Sometimes, I was a Fool, Who Put You Up To This, Beat the Odds, Wall Watcher, Feel Somebody, Shake, Somebody Call a Doctor