After having seen Canadian musician Lights in concert at least six times over the past five years I consider myself a little bit of an expert. Her show last night on her cross Canada tour in support of her third album, Little Machines, at Le National was an up and down uneven affair meaning it had a few good things about it and some not so good.
Her show last night was at Le National was at a great venue for one of her shows. It is small and intimate. One of the several venues built around 1900, Le National is filled with great little touches like red velvet curtains, an open feel so the sightlines are great and it feels bigger than it is and wooden flairs. The greatness of the venue was amplified by the great lighting. Interestingly the lights were never focused on the singer or her bands rather lighting behind and in front of them. It created a cool effect and made for some great visuals.
Having begun her career as a mostly electro pop act Lights sound has evolved a little over the years and now she is doing more straight up pop stuff. To illustrate this she spent almost as much time during the show playing an electric guitar or just dancing around as she did on the keyboards. Dial back a couple of years and Lights was almost exclusively on the keyboards during a live show. Part of why her fans love Lights is her honesty. That was able to come through in the way she moved around the stage. Her awkward dancing (hey, that is what she called it) is totally endearing in that there is no attempt to look cool or like a professional dancer. She cannot really dance and owns it. I and many of her fans love that about her. No frills, numerous costume changes, background dancers or pyrotechnics at a Lights show. It is all about getting together and singing her songs together. Lights creates that environment at her shows. She communicates with her audience members – engages them through song and even talks to them. The connection Lights creates is palpable.
Evolution and change of how you are on stage is not necessarily a bad thing and usually it is a good thing, but in the case of Lights I am reserving judgment. Half of the setlist was songs from Little Machines and it all kind of blended into each other being that a lot of it is mid-tempo pop. Other than set opener “Muscle Memory” and set closer and first single off Little Machines “Up We Go” none of the other new songs stood out for me. That did not allow me to get into the show as much as I wanted to. I found myself spending my time during the new songs hoping the next one was from debut album The Listening or her excellent sophomore effort, Siberia.
That being said songs like “Toes”, “Siberia” and “Last Thing On Your Mind” (different arrangement and very cool) were highlights of the evening. The electronica heavy songs worked better and had better energy. These are great songs on record and really translate in a live setting. It was during these songs that the crowd really got into it dancing around and waving their arms in the air in time with the music.
Another not so good thing was that Lights has a strong voice and normally she uses it effectively to become another layer in her heavily layered electro pop. On this evening with the newer songs it just didn’t work for me. There was too much reverb and her vocals were too loud. This was made worse at the times when she was guilty of over singing. At times she was sharp and the loudness made it all that much more obvious.
Opening act was the New York artist Rush Midnight. Rush Midnight is the stage name of singer/bassist Russell Manning, a formally trained jazz musician. His music reminded me of what an 80s New Wave band might sound like if they were still making music today. The 30-odd minute set was filled with synth-pop music that really did not distinguish itself from a lot of stuff out there.
1) Muscle Memory
3) How We Do It
4) My Boots
6) Running With the Boys
7) The Last Thing on Your Mind
9) Drive My Soul
10) Don’t Go Home Without Me
12) Where the Fence is Low
14) Timing is Everything
15) Same Sea
16) Up We Go
17) Oil and Water