The Beths - Auckland NZ 2020 (2LP Vinyl)In March 2020, everything seemed on track for another huge year for The Beths. Home after an 18-month northern hemisphere tour, they had just finished recording sophomore album Jump Rope Gazers and were primed for more extensive touring. But within days, New Zealand’s lockdown split the band between three separate houses. All touring was cancelled.
“It was existentially bad,” Stokes says. As well as worrying about economic survival, they lost something crucial to the band’s identity: live performance. “It's a huge part of how we see ourselves... What does it mean, if we can't play live?”
The band found an outlet through live-streaming, returning to the do-it-yourself mentality of their early days to connect with a global audience. The album and film have their genesis in that urge to share the now-rare experience of a live show, as widely as possible.
The fuzzy-round-the-edges live-streams pointed the way aesthetically. Native birds, wonkily crafted by the band from tissue paper and wire, festoon the venue’s cavernous ceiling while house plants soften and disguise the imposing pipes of an organ. The presence of the film crew isn’t disguised: much of the camerawork is handheld; full of fast zooms and pans.
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.”
"Looking back on the strangest year in living memory for the world I am so grateful to have been able to experience live music here in NZ, a rare privilege. Somehow, through that time the musicians and audiences of Aotearoa /NZ felt closer and more supportive of each other, turned out in greater numbers and celebrated a diversity of talent. The Beths have recorded and filmed one of the pivotal events of the year, their concert at the Auckland Town Hall. Its high energy pop music for the ages." – Neil Finn (Fleetwood Mac, Crowded House, Split Enz).