Lights @ Salle Andre-Mathieu – September 8, 2012

Like all her shows that I have seen young Canadian electro-pop artist Lights (Valerie Anne Poxleitner) is without the usual fanfare that seems to come with musical acts today.  She does project that whole “girl next door” vibe.  Though she does walk onto stage last after her three bandmates (drummer and two keyboardist/guitarists) it without the usual fanfare.  No special musical lead up, no light effects, just the tiny, dark haired 25-year-old. Young, but she gets it.  It is all about the music and the atmosphere she creates with the crowd at Lights shows.

Playing at the very intimate Salle André-Mathieu (capacity is under 1,000 people) made for an opportunity for her fans to get quite close to the singer.  One of the more accessible artists going (she is always answering fans on Twitter and usually meets anyone who sticks around after her shows) she was always grabbing the outstretched hands of those crammed up against the stage.  A very likable performer in that she looks like one of us up there….I mean, if we could sing and play keyboards like her.

Lights moves around in an uninhibited way, but she is no J Lo or Madonna up there.  Then there is the Justin Bieber-like hair flip (though it must be explained that she has done it longer than the Biebs).  Speaking of her hair, her pretty monumental comb-over is gone.  It is still the same length, but has been replaced by bangs.  All she does is very authentic and just an artist being moved by the music rather than one following the same choreography night after night.  No script is being followed.  She is a good role model for young people in that she never pretends to be something that she is not and really celebrates her individuality.  Each show is a unique event. Everything is very genuine about her from her big smile that doesn’t often leave her face to the fact that it is obvious that she loves what she is doing.

The latter can be proven by the fact that she has been touring in support of her sophomore album, Siberia, pretty much for a year and a half now.  She pretty much introduced the new songs at a set she did at Osheaga 2011 and has continued to tour since.  Including that gig this is Lights third time in Montreal (and the surroundings) in support of Siberia.  Though it was her third time through the city supporting the same album each show has been different.

Like many artists, she has tinkered with the sound, tempo and arrangements of some of her songs.  For instance, this time through she did acoustic solo versions of “Saviour” (made the song much more poignant being sung just with a piano) and an almost country version of “Cactus in the Valley”.  It is during these intimate moments that you can see the width and breadth of her talent.  The girl can certainly play piano and guitar well and her voice is allowed to take more of a centerfield position. Lights also did one of the best covers of the Blondie song “Heart of Glass” that I’ve ever heard.  Her voice is well suited for the Debbie Harry style of singing.

When she and her band were playing her own unique brand of electro-pop the crowd was swaying and singing along to the music.  Lights even allowed the crowd to take over on vocals on a couple of occasions and they did an admirable job.  The catchy nature of her songs is irrefutable and they become that much more so when you see and hear her perform them live.  Though she does use some echo/reverb on her voice the girl can really sing.  Plenty of power from that little package.  It is almost shocking that it comes from such a small person.  It really goes all the way to proving that she is not a product of the studio.  Her voice is strong enough to carry any size room.

Her individuality leads to plenty of crossover success.  The sensibilities she espouses are more of the indie-rock variety and as such many fans of that genre have become her fans.  Her credibility is evident to all who take the time to check her out. This results in a pretty mixed bag audience at a Lights show.  What does tend to hold true is that her audiences are primarily of the late teen age category.

Another aspect of her show which I think goes unnoticed or underappreciated is the complexity of her music.  This is not your usual pop stuff as it is layered and textured.  When you hear electro-pop I’m sure the thought “club music” comes to mind, but this is a whole other animal.  It is not just repetitive drum beats.  The atmosphere her music creates is a deep one that draws you in.  This whole complexity probably comes from her love for video games.  Just like the stories, characters and scenarios in the good ones (she is a World of Warcraft fan) her music is fully realized.

The atmosphere of her music was amplified by a very cool lights show.  It especially stood out in the smallness of the room.  At points I was a little distracted…well, distracted is not exactly the right word as it sounds negative.  Maybe I should say I was “caught” up in the lights because they were so cool instead of watching Lights.  The lights, which were often my favourite colour purple, moved around the room and over the crowd and really seemed to get them going.

Though the show was a short one at around 1 hour 15 minutes, she did sparkle throughout.  It shortness did not lead me (or anyone else) to believe that she was just going through the motions and wanted to get out of there.  Her third show in Montreal in a short period and still I do not grow tired of seeing Lights perform live.

The opening act on this evening was another Canadian, Shawn Hook.  With his faux hawk and cool guy clothes he made every attempt to impress.  His music was definitely heavier and rocky than the headliner’s.  The beats of his music were cool, but he does have to work on his very clichéd lyrics.  Hooks has a wide vocal range and a decent falsetto.  He played for 40 minutes and treated the young ladies (who were enjoying what they were seeing) to songs like “So Close” and “Every Red Light”.

Setlist:

  1. 1) Banner
  1. 2) Fourth Dimension
  1. 3) Timing is Everything
  1. 4) River
  1. 5) Flux and Flow
  1. 6) Everybody Breaks a Glass
  1. 7) Saviour (piano solo)
  1. 8) Drive My Soul
  1. 9) Heart of Glass (Blondie cover)

10)  Siberia

11)  Suspension

12)  Where the Fence is Low/Day One

13)  Toes

Encore:

14)  Lions!

15)  Cactus in the Valley (acoustic guitar solo)

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