Though the night of March 19 was heavy with drizzle and gloom, singer-songwriter Gatlin was armed with an exuberant set to open for Vérité at The Independent. Dressed in a girly, glittery blouse contrasted with edgy leather pants, she bounded onto the stage to perform recent singles and songs off her EPs, Sugarcoated and To Remind Me of Home.
With a rebellious streak in both her hair and her music, Gatlin opened with her 2022 hit single, “2000 Miles,” a haunting track about trying to be happy after losing oneself in a relationship. Despite the song’s heavy subject and her earnest, desperate vocals in the original version, Gatlin’s live performance of “2000 Miles” reclaimed the lyrics’ power. Her face was locked in a grin as she sang, “Drove two thousand miles/ And when the sun hit me/ Didn’t mind you weren’t with me,” reframing the lines to deliver joy and freedom, rather than the apprehensiveness of the original version.
As elation filled the room, Gatlin greeted San Francisco: “I’m so happy to be here!” This concert marked her second show in the city, her first performance being at the Cafe Du Nord in 2022. Introducing her band — Sean McHugh on guitar and Aaron Krak on drums — as hometown friends, Gatlin chatted to the audience with the same familiar warmth. Her speaking voice held a melodic cadence that calmed the crowd before she launched into an upbeat performance of an unreleased song.
“You’re breaking my heart,” she sang, engaging the audience and directing them to sing her background vocals. The audience’s hushed reception of this song turned into an enthusiastic embrace as the band played its last chords. A fan in the front row shouted, “You popped your p—ssy with that one girl!” and was met with the crowd’s tittering agreement.
Straying from her indie pop roots, Gatlin plunged into rock with the angsty “Masterclass.” The track’s distorted background, heavy riffs and apocalyptic drums shone through in its live rendition. Krak and McHugh, especially, dominated the performance with their instrumental embodiment of this volatile number, heads whipping and guitar shredding.
Unfortunately, despite the success of a few songs, Gatlin’s vocals throughout the concert left much to be desired. While her talent was undeniable, she was inconsistent with her delivery, missing notes in fast-paced, poppy choruses and distracting from her voice with displaced dancing. Though her recorded tracks promise her ability to vocalize complex tunes, her inability to translate her best songs into solid, consistent vocal performances made her a few points shy of perfection.
Granted, the perfect concert doesn’t exist. In spite of these flaws, Gatlin found redemption in her acoustic rendition of “Grown”, the last song off Sugarcoated. As she sang of growing pains, her voice strongly traversed octaves, mature and controlled. Isolated from the intensity of her band, Gatlin’s voice felt like a light in the dark room. The audience listened in awed silence, enraptured by the girl and her guitar.
“I’m 24 now, and I still don’t feel like an adult,” Gatlin admitted. “I still just want to be a kid forever.” She was charming in her honesty and intimacy, peppering her set with true confessions and updates about her life. An Orlando native, Gatlin explained finding her footing in LA, moving away from her hometown and somehow still relating to songs she wrote years ago.
The show wound down to a sweet, swaying denouement as Gatlin said goodbye to San Francisco. Fans buzzed in the front row to chat with her, Krak and McHugh, and her glow lingered even after the stage was clear. Though it was only her second time in San Francisco, Gatlin’s easy connection with the crowd gives hope for a third visit.