The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Beabadoobee needs more fuel for mosh-pit dreams at sold-out D.C. show

Beabadoobee performing at 9:30 Club on Nov. 1. (Thomas Davis)

With crackling guitars, insistent drums and sneering lyrics, Beabadoobee’s “Care” feels crafted for the opening scene of a ’90s teen movie featuring a rebellious heroine turning heads as she peels into her school’s parking lot in a beat-up sedan.

“I don’t want your sympathy / I guess I’ve had it rough / But you don’t really care,” the 21-year-old, U.K.-based artist snipes with Veruca Salt-adjacent vocals on the first single for her debut album, “Fake It Flowers.”

Rife with grunge and emo influences of decades past, Beabadoobee’s musical journey has expanded from intimate acoustic-pop to brash, roomy alt-rock. The nostalgic turn unfolds further on her latest EP, “Our Extended Play,” made in collaboration with the 1975’s Matty Healy and George Daniel, who offer soundtrack-ready flourishes.

That cinematic energy, however, was absent from Beabadoobee’s sold-out show at D.C.’s 9:30 Club, where she kicked off her North American tour. Though she offered strong vocals and seemed engaged with the crowd, her performance sauntered along in comparison with the magnetic sets of her opening acts.

Bea Kristi — who later took on the name Beabadoobee from her “finsta” (“fake” Instagram) handle — started writing songs at 17, after her father gave her a guitar during turbulent times. She had been kicked out of her all-girls Catholic school in London and embraced the creative outlet as she faced mental health struggles.

Beabadoobee wants to show you she’s more than a viral TikTok song

When she first posted the syrupy, bedroom-recorded single “Coffee” online in 2017, she didn’t expect anyone outside of her friends group to hear it. But it eventually caught the attention of London-based indie record label Dirty Hit, home to the 1975 and Rina Sawayama. Kristi joined the roster, and in 2020, a sample of her first-ever song was used in Canadian rapper Powfu’s “death bed (coffee for your head),” which went viral on TikTok.

“Mostly the reason why I make music is the idea that I’m not alone in my situation and that there are other people going through the same thing,” Kristi said in an “Apple Music: Up Next” video.

A community-fostering spirit shone Monday night — particularly in the two opening acts. Texas-born Christian Leave wove together silken songs of yearning, and Kansas City-based Blackstarkids unleashed infectious pop-punk energy.

In contrast, when Beabadoobee took the stage, Kristi’s performance was restrained, almost sedate at times. She confessed that jet lag had hit her hard and that she had been awake since 3 a.m.

Her fatigue felt especially palpable because of the bare stage. It was a missed opportunity to add fresh visual elements given Beabadoobee’s creative music videos. In such a spare space, Kristi’s flat energy was hard to miss, especially as her bandmates bloomed around her.

Kristi pushed through, urging the crowd to dance and form a mosh pit that dissipated after a few beats for the charged “Together.” A first-time live performance of “Charlie Brown” created room for headbanging introspection.

She glittered when she switched to an acoustic guitar for “Tired,” her serene vocals shimmering like a firefly gently cupped in hands. Dance-worthy, flirty “Cologne’’ ended the night on a high, offering a glimpse of the silver-screen-promise Beabadoobee has with more growth and rest.

Outerloop wants to kick your teeth in

This new Grouper album, ‘Shade,’ is life-affirming in ways you might not remember

Covid put music festivals on hold. Climate change might offer bigger long-term problems.