Sunflower Bean @ Thekla, Bristol, 03/04/2018

Sunflower BeanThere’s nothing quite like those first pangs of spring; the lighter evenings, the blue sky, emerging floral scenes. What a fitting tribute to the weather than a performance from equally delightful, Sunflower Bean. Touring their highly anticipated second album, Twentytwo in Blue, they’ve all now reached the grand old age of 22 together. In true musician fashion, their album is a commemorative birthday present and the tour acts as an excellent second gift.

Opening with “Burn It”, Sunflower Bean dive right in. Chiming guitar with thundering drum beat kicks us off, no holding back. Julia Cumming’s vocal is feisty and tough, shouting through the more angsty sections of their output. Their laid-back American style fits the psych-rock glove, with dashes of indie and alternative styles. But it’s the rock edge that they know best.

“Crisis Fest” is a favourite from the new album, prompting resounding, “no, no, no”’s from the crowd. Drawing on the current socio-political sphere, Sunflower Bean’s second album can’t escape the shortcomings of America with charged vocals bleeding into many of the tracks and, with it, a heightened maturity compared to their debut, Human Ceremony.

Julia Cumming herself is truly captivating. Her punchy vocals turn into beautifully soft honey within a beat, mixing the tempo and air of the evening singlehandedly. Her NYC twang accentuates the oozing freshness of the group, exuding cool. Cast your eyes for a second over to guitarist, Nick Kivlen, who doesn’t quite share the same grace. He’s either running around in circles, spinning around, or just loafing in his white boiler suit. But it’s these little quirks that make them seem so gorgeously compatible.

Nick hangs up the electric guitar for an acoustic one, slowing the disposition. The delicacy of their Neil Young cover, “Harvest Moon”, halts the energy, wooing with warm vocals. The melody’s country-esque vibes sit amongst some of their rockier ones from Twentytwo in Blue; a welcome lull in their set list.

“I Was Home” ends their encore; a track that now feels so teen in its nature compared to the much fuller discography they now share, drawing on a much wider experience of the world. But there’s still something resoundingly sweet and pure in their soundscape. They retain an innocence despite Twentytwo in Blue manifesting a more mature outlook. It’s an exciting time for Sunflower Bean, and it seems they are just starting to bloom.

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