Beabadoobee headlines a polite evening at The Truman with Christian Leave, Blackstarkids
Sunday night’s gig at The Truman was one of the most polite rock shows I’ve attended. Also, likely the one with the youngest average age, both in performers and attendees.
The Truman’s warehouse-style venue was roughly half full of fans who had come to see Filipino-British singer-songwriter Beabadoobee.
Perhaps due to its cold concrete interior and its lack of tiered seating, when a show at the venue isn’t at least two-thirds full, it almost invariably feels a bit dead. It didn’t completely kill the mood; any show, despite its size, can be salvaged by its performers and attendees, but with a bit more effort from both parties, a night that held several highlights could have held many more.
Following a string of four EPs between the start of 2018 to the end of 2019, Beabadoobee (Beatrice Laus) released her debut full-length, Fake It Flowers, via British indie label Dirty Hit in October 2020. The album saw Bea outgrowing the twee bedroom pop that she first won attention for, opting instead to channel American grunge and ‘80s and ‘90s Britpop to pen a set of songs that capture the nature of adolescence. Bea turned 21 this year.
Fake It Flowers won near-universal praise and charted higher than any of Bea’s EPs.
Beabadoobee’s hourlong headlining set eventually picked up steam, but it wasn’t until the halfway point during the Fake It Flowers closer, “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene,” that Bea really seemed to come to life.
It followed relatively tame renditions of songs like “Care,” “Together,” and “Sorry”—all of which on the record are towering alt-rock sucker punches of teen angst. But as she repeated the chorus of “Yoshimi” a final few times (consisting of the three names she has chosen for her future children—named for the Flaming Lips album, Tom Hanks’ 1994 smash, and a Pixies song), her voice finally passed the threshold of a shout before she spun away from the microphone to finish her guitar run.
The crowd at large may have been more interested in Bea’s more pop-centric offerings. Bea ditched her guitar at times to strut and sway about the stage unencumbered, “He Gets Me So High” being the first of those, and primary set closer “Last Day On Earth” another.
The latter is a track from her 2021 EP, Our Extended Play, and sorts through all of the things Bea would like to have done if she had known a world-changing lockdown was on the way last year.
While Fake It Flowers captured the timeless pressures of being young, “Last Day On Earth” hones in on the longing for escape that almost everyone alive the last two years has felt at one point or another. Its production and instrumentation evoke the aesthetics of Y2K and the bubbly, carefree radio pop music of the era. It’s genius for calling back to that time, for when current events seem bleaker than ever.
Bea intuitively knows the world is on fire, but that it shouldn’t stop us from dancing.
Following an obligatory rendition of her breakout acoustic pop hit “Coffee” to open her encore, Bea ended the show with “Cologne,” another track from her new EP. The song is just as poppy as “Last Day On Earth,” featuring an undeniable dance beat, the chaotic, squealing guitar solos I yearned for in other moments during the show, and the band’s use of the entire stage. Bea grooved like she was on a mission, mic in hand—her lead guitarist smiling as he stalked the tour photographer around the stage until he had to retreat behind the drums.
Beabadoobee’s set was preceded by a half-hour from Texas singer-songwriter Christian Leave. Christian rose to fame online in a similar fashion to Beabadoobee: self-releasing music to social media as a teenager. In his case, Christian amassed a following of 800,000 on Vine in 2014 (at the age of 14). Since then he’s signed with Warner Records and released four EPs and one LP. The songs are mostly dreamy indie-pop tunes that feel as if they’re made in a laboratory for the sole purpose of being listened to with a crush in a colorful, LED-lit bedroom.
Despite Christian’s charming demeanor and his willingness to playfully stare down and jam out with his fellow guitarist on occasion, it made for a largely uninteresting set for anyone not already smitten with the band.
The evening began with a performance from Raytown trio Blackstarkids—labelmates of Beabadoobee who are playing every date of this four-and-a-half-week US tour with her.
This was the group’s fifth-ever show in the Kansas City metro, following two DIY gigs before their signing, opening for Grouplove at Liberty Hall, and an album release headliner at recordBar. I personally witnessed members of the band rushing around outside the box office minutes before their set began, doing their best to guest-list every friend and family member they could. TyFaizon paused after the first few songs to give his grandmother in attendance a shoutout and apologize for cussing.
The band wasted no time getting the party started with back-to-back upbeat pop-rock bangers “Sounds Like Fun” and “Jimmy Neutron.” Though Gabe and Deiondre’s clean vocals were not high enough in the mix for portions of the set, the rest of the sound was superior to the show with Grouplove just two months ago. They were also clearly more confident and comfortable in their stage presence.
Despite their clean and colorful aesthetics, much of the grittiness that comes with coming of age is still present in the songs.
Through their seamless fusion of genres, infectious energy, and clever use of nostalgia (songs alluded to or interpolated in lyrics on this night included Kanye’s “Stronger,” YG’s “Toot It and Boot It,” and Kesha’s “Tik Tok”), Blackstarkids’ set showcased what makes them one of the most promising acts to emerge from Kansas City in the last several years.
All photos by Aaron Rhodes