Saturday, March 10, 2012

LIGHTS: Live At The 9:30 Club

When I arrived at the venue, a line of eager bodies wrapped around the building.  The sun had already begun to set and the air was frozen by gusts of wind.  I was suddenly wishing I had worn at least two more coats and maybe a scarf.  Stretching down the block, a mass of people were waiting for LIGHTS to perform at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC.  As part of the Siberia Tour, March 5 was her night in the nation's capitol, and the show would surely be something to remember.

The doors opened at seven, as everyone rushed in to escape the cold.  The opening band, Ambassadors, wouldn't play until fifteen past eight, so that stretch of time allowed for a decent amount of excitement and anticipation to build.  When Ambassadors finally did come out, I was somewhat surprised.  They're definitely not the type of band that I would expect to see opening for an electro-pop artist.  They had energy and worked the crowd, but I feel like they would've been better appreciated at an alternative rock concert. Mismatch aside, the audience seemed to enjoy the act.

After Ambassadors played for a good forty minutes or so, the stage was cleared and set up for the main event.  At half past nine, the party started and everyone remembered why they were there.  The stage lights went full blast and the music picked up.  LIGHTS' set lifted off with her latest single, "Banner".  At most other shows that I've been to, the crowd never fails to make a rush towards the stage when they sense their favorite band is about to play.  I must say, this audience was one of the most considerate and polite that I've seen.  No pummeling surge or relentless moshing throughout the entire night.  The LIGHTS Army is a gentle kind.

The setlist dabbled back and forth between cuts off of LIGHTS' new record, Siberia, and old favorites from her debut.  The odd non-album track was also present.  She ran to and from synthesizers as the insanely catchy melodies filled the air.  You know how some people look completely different when you see them in person?  LIGHTS was identical to her album cover, wearing a red plaid button-up over a tank top and jeans.  Her standard combover mane was present as well.

The dubstep infused breakdowns found in a handful of her recent songs were magnified that night.  Strobes lit the club and worked the room on tracks like "Flux And Flow", "Suspension", and one of the highlights of her set, "Everybody Breaks A Glass".  Rap verses by Shad, which appear on the studio recordings, were replaced with instrumentals or an extended chorus.  Moments like these proved that if LIGHTS really felt like it, she could create one heavy album.

In contrast to the thicker electronic tracks, LIGHTS slowed down the set halfway through with the reprise of "Pretend".  The alternate piano version had arms waving in the air.  She followed this touching moment with a suitable rendition of "Face Up".  Just when this little ballad section started to settle in, a crunchy "Siberia" brought the pace back up.  I feel like balance is required for a successful concert.  If you leave one end of the show lopsided with slower tracks or pack every hit single one after another, you'll lose any sense of connection between the songs.  LIGHTS did an excellent job of weaving the tracks into an order that felt right.

The main set ended with "Toes", the lead single to Siberia.  She then took her exit for a mandatory break before the encore.  After a brief round of "LIGHTS!  LIGHTS!  LIGHTS!" chanting from the giddy crowd, she returned to the stage for two more songs.  First was a stellar performance of "Second Go", one of my absolute favorites from her first album, The Listening.  It served as the last call to scream along before the night ended.  To wrap up the evening, LIGHTS played a stripped down version of "Cactus In The Valley".  Accompanied by her acoustic guitar, it was the perfect way to say goodnight to DC.

LIGHTS knows how to put on one spectacular concert and I would gladly see her show again the next time she stops by.  It's pop enough to satisfy the Top 40 crowd, yet those who are into dance and electronic music will have a great time.  If you're interested in catching a concert, LIGHTS is still playing across the US as part of the Siberia Tour.  For a full list of tour dates and ticket info, including SXSW, you can find her schedule here.  To download Siberia go this way.  For any other inquiries about the Canadian songstress, head over to her website.

You can check out the video for "Banner" below...

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