In August, BROODS sold out Oakland’s Fox Theater. The New Zealand brother, sister combo have been riding a wave of success since their breakout single “Bridges” was followed up by the much-loved Evergreen, ascending them to international fame. Their latest trip to the Bay Area could be seen as unusual territory as they found themselves opening for Two Door Cinema Club on their North American Tour (BROODS’ 2015 visit was to sell out San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom).
BROODS’ latest album, Conscious, was released in the Summer to a mixture of positive and lukewarm reviews. Many praising the more layered, fuller production with others bemoaning the seeming trudge towards predictability creeping into the sound. What the album lost in raw, emotive, stories it gained in slick, multi-layered production. Their set, in front of a packed Fox Theater, was in many ways a reflection of this; both for better and for worse.
The set focused heavily on new music, the broader fuller sound was translated to the stage with aplomb. No longer doubling up on vocals and keys Georgia Nott was free to roam, spin, wiggle and dance to each corner of the stage. Even though they were only opening, it felt bigger than the time I saw them previously (at The Regency in 2015). With a bigger band, Caleb appears to present a less prominent figure on stage, at the front yes, but often hidden in the shadows of the spotlight following his sister around the stage.
While the sound was big, and the performance was lively, yet the rawness, which many fell in love with, felt lost. The performance was harder to connect to. Working their way through the new songs on the album, there appeared to be little reaction from the crowd.
Prior to singing “Heartlines”, Georgia asked everyone to put their hands up “or whatever young people do,” about seven arms went up. “Bridges” got a bigger response, however, it felt more polite and appreciative then ramped with energy translated from the stage to the crowd.
It is always difficult being the opening act, especially when there are such contrasts with the band you are opening for. The newfound polish of Conscious didn’t translate in this particular setting. At times it sounded great, the speakers boomed, especially on the floor, however, it feels like BROODS are still trying to figure out how to make the most of this newer sound on stage. As the set finished, I was not sure how I felt. The music thumps in new ways, the sounds are crisper, and cleaner, yet it seems to be missing the bite and an urgency they generated when touring Evergreen. Part of this may have been the opening slot, and some of it due to not yet being fully comfortable with the expansion of their songcraft.
BROODS are a band still finding their feet. The notoriously ‘tricky’ second album has emboldened their music, however, moved them into potentially a new musical space. I’m excited to see what they do next, and how they mould and craft the sounds they create, because very often the best music is found after losing your way a little.