REVIEW: MUNA gets creative at the Independent

SAN FRANCISCO — More than nine months into a tour, at a time when you couldn’t blame a performer for going through the motions, MUNA still puts on as passionate of a performance as it did on the first day. The Los Angeles trio, backed by a talented bassist and drummer, was still able to pack as much emotion and empowerment in its set Wednesday at the Independent as it did on its album release date in San Francisco in February.

The emotion, raw energy and joy were there from song to song. From the opener, “Promise,” to dance-alongs “Loudspeaker” and “I Know A Place,” the Prince-like guitar solo at the end of “If U Love Me Now,” and the deeper cuts on debut album About U, like “Crying On The Bathroom Floor” and “Winterbreak,” the sold-out crowd collectively sang along to every word. The band, vocalist Katie Gavin and guitarists Josette Maskin and Naomi McPherson, definitely noticed the attention. Gavin remarked early in the set how quickly MUNA has grown in less than a year from playing at Rickshaw Stop to selling out the Independent.

But the band also didn’t rest on its laurels, and switched up its set from its first three performances in San Francisco this year (MUNA also played at Outside Lands and opened for Harry Styles at the Masonic just last month). The trio tossed in a newer track, “In My Way,” reworked “End of Desire” with an acoustic guitar lead, and performed two outstanding covers: Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” and U2’s “With or Without You,” the latter as a dance track rather than a ballad.

Los Angeles singer-songwriter Grace Mitchell performed ahead of MUNA with a short set of new material from her forthcoming album. Mitchell showed she’s pivoting from a pop-friendly flair to a rougher-around-the-edges rock sound with songs like “Kids (Ain’t All Right),” “Now” and “French Becky.” But not all of the songs ignore a smoother aesthetic. “Come Back For You,” a velvety ballad, served as a pallet cleanser between the newer material and set closer “NoLo,” Mitchell’s best-known song.

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