In the intimate Riviera Theatre on a Wednesday night, the audience is greeted with sticky floors, the stench of marijuana, and a smoky haze on the stage, but there’s a certain charm to it all. It’s not an enormous venue, so the experience is far from impersonal – it feels like you’ve been invited to see a friend’s performance, rather than a large event with thousands of others.
Beabadoobee, a Philippines-born and London-raised artist, was accompanied by lo-fi band Lowertown for the Chicago leg of her Beatopia world tour. Before the show started, Beabadoobee Airdropped a screenshot of a note with her autograph, saying, “hope you enjoy the concert” with a black heart emoji. Sweet, personal touches like this were evident throughout the show.
Lowertown’s shaggy-haired singer Olivia Osby and guitarist/vocalist Avshalom Weinberg opened with punchy rhythms, haunting melodic vocals, and heavy punk rock sounds to energize the audience, most of which was on the floor in the pit. Osby’s vocals were reminiscent of my personal favorite punk band Destroy Boys. It seemed the noisier setlist from Lowertown was a bit much for the indie rock crowd gathered for Beabadoobee, though. It was not for lack of talent; it’s likely the band would have fared better if they played more of their lo-fi and electronica influenced tracks.
Beabadoobee herself proved to be more than just a TikTok one-hit wonder. She performed her first song “Coffee” – sampled in Powfu’s hit “Death Bed (Coffee for Your Head)” – during the encore, but the audience sang along to all the other songs in the regular 18-track setlist.
She opened with “10:36,” a hyperpop-influenced rock song paired with sweeping white lights, mosh pits, and production similar to the work of 100 gecs. “Apple Cider” came next with funky bass lines by tour bassist Eliana Sewell. My favorite performance was probably that of “The Perfect Pair,” the eighth track in the set. The song’s bossa nova influences translated into an alluring, breathtaking performance where the audience could only stop and stare.
Beabadoobee’s light, airy vocals on tracks like “Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene” and “See You Soon” were magnetic and soothing, but equally incredible were the thundering drums of the later songs like in “Back to Mars.”
While it may be easy to try and box her into the indie pop genre, Beabadoobee defies the boundaries of genre and comes into her own as an artist with her latest album Beatopia. Her stylistic variation does not fail to intrigue, impress, and invigorate, and her colleagues in the industry can see it too– she is slated to open for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour next spring.
In tears, Beabadoobee thanked her audience for listening, and for singing her lyrics back to her. Tears also flowed, she told us, during her NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which came out the same day as the show. If her Chicago performance and NPR’s recognition were any indication, there is much more in store for Beabadoobee – perhaps even sold-out stadiums.
Thumbnail image taken by Olatunji Osho-Williams / North by Northwestern.