Almost everyone throughout the world has looked on at New Zealand in jealousy over the past 18 months. While many countries endured seemingly never-ending lockdowns and mitigations to help avoid the spread of COVID-19 with varying degrees of success, New Zealand seemed like an idyllic utopia, where COVID wasn’t rampant and people were doing normal things, like going to live concerts in 2020.
The thought of that is absurd as many music venues in the United States are just starting to open back up within the past few months, and even now they are doing it cautiously. The Beths, an Auckland-based indie pop group, are here to rub it in our faces just how normal life has been for them on their new live album “Auckland, New Zealand, 2020,” a live album (recorded in 2020!) that lets all of us non-Kiwis slip into a bizarre alternate universe where life barely ever left normalcy.
The album also coincides with a live concert film, which shares the name “Auckland, New Zealand, 2020.” The live footage captures one of the band’s largest live performances in its hometown to date, at the Auckland Town Hall in November.
The Beths really shine on their songs from their 2020 release “Jump Rope Gazers,” especially in lead-off song “I’m Not Getting Excited.” The song, whose lyrics capture deep anxiety and existential dread, goes against its name in the live version as just the frenetic guitar intro leads the fans in attendance to start screaming. It’s easy to imagine the high energy in the crowd as singer and guitarist Elizabeth Stokes bursts into the song.
“Jump Rope Gazers” was released last summer, during one of the heights of the pandemic, and this was presumably one of The Beths’ earliest opportunities to play these songs to a live crowd.
It’s also fun to hear the band’s multi-part harmonies in a live setting, especially in the background on songs like “Whatever,” which comes early in the band’s set.
“Auckland, New Zealand, 2020” is perfect for any fan of The Beths, or anyone who likes solid indie pop and wants to recapture the fun of a live show. The album doesn’t just capture how fun The Beths is as a band, and they’re extremely fun to listen to (and presumably see based on the near-constant screams of the 1,500 fans at their show), but it also captures the pure joy of seeing live music. Some musicians and bands thrive more in their recorded products, but The Beths are not one of those bands, although don’t get me wrong, their recorded music is great. The Beths are a band that must be seen live, because if their music is as fun as it is on their two albums, just imagine how much more fun it would be to see them in a theater or at a festival. The excitement of the crowd that’s recorded in “Auckland, New Zealand, 2020” only goes to prove that.
By taking away live music the pandemic has shown us how valuable it is as an artform on its own, and as a lived experience. Bands like The Beths have given that back to us by providing this album.
While non-Kiwi fans only have the opportunity to virtually see the band perform as of now, there will be a multitude of opportunities in the near future as the band is embarking on several tours to support the new live album, as well as 2020’s “Jump Rope Gazers.” The Beths will be touring in Australia later this year after performing several dates in various New Zealand cities, and hitting the United States and Europe in early 2022.
Auckland, New Zealand, 2020 is out now.