Brooklyn’s fine psychedelic rockers Sunflower Bean are a rare type of band. Having undergone a trailblazing transformation, tonight’s live set sparkles like an exceptional rocking pearl. There is confidence and presence in cool, alluring excess. Knowing how to make unmitigated use of the time they have on stage, they captivate the crowd within minutes, and it stays like that for the entire duration of the set.
The Borderline show is sold out, but there is no denying, the popular central London venue is facing imminent closure. Magic and glitter are supplied in abundance, and the quality of Sunflower Bean’s show in association with Brooklyn Brewery ought to play an active part in any final attempts to secure the venue’s future and leave it free to operate for years to come.
At times dreamy with pop sensibilities, the trio knows how to put on a sweaty rock ‘n’ roll show. Keen and determined to rip their set to shreds, there is no doubt that they mean business as they kick things off fearlessly with ‘King of the Dudes’ and ‘Fear City’ taken from this year’s EP release. The intimate space is filled with anticipation, excitement and adrenaline.
Keen to add fuel to the fire, they quickly move on to ‘Twentytwo’, and then a slower pace version of ‘Tame Impala’, their intense and dark, heavier track from 2015. This is followed by the rocky and raucous ‘Somebody Call a Doctor’ from 2013, a song the band “haven’t played in maybe two years”, according to their mesmeric frontwoman Julia Cumming.
If what Cumming says is true, it is difficult to tell from their execution of the song, and Sunflower Bean couldn’t look more together and comfortable with one another. There seems to be succinct communication and understanding between them.
The energy and spark of songs such as ‘Easier Said’, ‘Memoria’, ‘Human For’ and the Fleetwood Mac-like ‘I was a Fool’ make them suited for the middle part of the set, they flow easily and keep everything nicely together.
The term ‘dress to impress’ is less of a cliché when it is linked to Sunflower Bean. They look stylish in a way that is natural and unforced. The style element they have underpins their idiosyncratic rock psychedelia and it helps to celebrate their performance in fascinating ways.
But more than anything it is the honesty and authenticity that make them stand out. Just expressing what everybody is feeling right there in the particular moment, Cumming is moved, “I have never been here before but I love the whole vibe”, she says.
Sunflower Bean’s decision to revitalise some of their older tracks works well, it supports their authentic rock roots and they have so many influences. The combination of intimacy and authenticity is spot on, and the blistering night just keeps on getting better. As the temperature rises cans of Brooklyn lager disappear by the second, things get sweatier and the wired, enthused crowd is now at total ease with the band and the surroundings they are in.
Choosing to end their spellbinding set with ‘Come for Me’ and ‘The Big One’, Cumming thanks everyone there for “making it a legendary set”. She is right; tonight’s gig has shown a new path for psychedelic rock in exhilarating and liberating ways. It has been super special.
By breathing fresh life into the iconic independent venues, Brooklyn Brewery is playing a vital role in the music communities. It would be useful if more funding bodies could take similar action and emulate this inspirational effort. Serving a big important cause, it is a really positive behaviour, and hopefully there will be a lot more of it.
Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Nick Sayers
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