Auckland, New Zealand, 2020
The anticipation is there in Elizabeth Stokes’ solo guitar riff under the opening lines of “I’m Not Getting Excited”: a frenetic, driving force daring a packed Auckland Town Hall to do exactly the opposite of what the track title suggests.
As the opener of The Beths’ Auckland, New Zealand, 2020 expands to include the full band, the crowd screeches and bellows. It’s a collective exhalation, in one of the few countries where live music is still possible.
The album title, and film of the same name, deliberately include the date and location, lead guitarist Jonathan Pearce says. “That’s the sensational part of what we actually did.” In a mid-pandemic world, playing to a heaving, enraptured home crowd feels miraculous.
With much of the material still fresh, the band was less focused on re-invention than playing “a good, fast rock show”, Pearce says. The tempo is up on crowd favourites “Whatever” and “Future Me Hates Me” (released as a live single on its third anniversary) as both band and audience feed off the mutual energy in the room.
Certain songs have taken on special resonance post-Covid. Pearce has found “Out Of Sight”, a tender rumination on long-distance relationships, hits particularly hard with live audiences.
Album closer “River Run” visibly brings Stokes to tears as a mix of achievement and relief kicks in. “You can finally relax at that point … You play the last note, breathe out a sigh and look up - and you’re in a giant room full of people happy and smiling.”
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