In this age of pop music we have become very jaded in regards to the talent level of today’s acts. There have been complaints about the voices in a live setting of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, KeSha, and even Taylor Swift. Who can really sing or who is the product of modern technology is a game we all play when listening to a young pop star sing.
Lights has built her career around making electro pop music. Bravely she decided to release an acoustic version of her last studio album, Siberia. Stripped down to a basic voice and guitar format with very little other arrangement the spotlight is shone on her voice and songwriting. Though Lights herself has admitted some nervousness performing stripped down versions of the songs her fans know and love the joy of performing these same songs outweighed the risk. After seeing her show on the Montreal stop of her small Siberia Acoustic tour I say that it was no risk at all.
With all the usual electronicness that surrounds her songs gone it allowed you to really hear her voice and listen to the lyrics. The voice is powerful, but nuanced sometimes at a whisper whereas others at full belt. A surprise was the passion in her voice. Again this is missed buried under all the technology of the recordings. Much of her lyrics are influenced by her being a comic book and video game nut. What I mean is that they have that kind of fantasy slash imaginary feel to them. Once again in the acoustic setting they were laid out bare for our examination. What I realized that while she does use a lot of dream like allusions there is also a lot of grounded stuff. The lines like “Like a magpie and a ring” are still there, but so are “I’m just a girl. I won’t be changing the world. And boy you know I’m not perfect but I’m perfect for you”. A love song. Hmmph! Never would have known.
When you think of pop music intimacy is not a feeling that springs to mind. Most of today’s pop artist stage huge shows with large screens, pyrotechnics, numerous costume changes, elaborate choreography, and a team of background dancers. None of these are involved in the latest Lights tour. It is just the newly blonde tiny singer, her two acoustic guitars, a stand up piano, and cellist Kevin Fox (has toured with Chantal Kreviazuk, Olivia Newton-John, Tom Cochrane, Steven Page) on stage. The stage’s sparseness matches the stripped down nature of the songs she has reworked to create completely different songs. Very unrock star and yet very much so the essence of music. Allowing the chords mixed with lyrics to come through and affect the listener.
Just a little outside her comfort zone, but sounding very comfortable up there, Lights is a rare young musical performer. She is very little about style (though she does have a very cool and edgy one) and mostly about substance. Within this acoustic style her songs took on an entirely different nature. A nature and ability to connect to that made for a silence so deep that you could hear a pin drop while she sang. Incredible that she was able to get just under a thousand mostly teenagers to focus completely on what she was singing about without being distracted. I’m sure their parents and teachers would pay dearly for lessons on how to accomplish this.
In between songs was a completely different situation. It was complete chaos with people shouting out things, bringing her cheese curds and basically coming out of their skins to try and interact with her. Being one of the older people there I found this amusing and refreshing, but a father, who had brought his daughter to the show, sitting behind me was less than impressed. He just didn’t seem to appreciate the connection that Lights has with her audience. For a rather unknown (that can be debated) musician she has over 1.5 followers on Twitter and Facebook. Lights really understands the power of social media and has made a link with her fans via these tools. She appreciates their comments and opinions. That same respect was shown during the show when she went a little off script by playing “River” for a female fan who had been yelling out for it almost the entire show. A dialogue between singer and fans was established with the usual wall being damned.
This was around my fifth time seeing Lights live over the past couple of years and it was a totally different experience. The acoustic tour confirmed her talent as a singer and songwriter. She is not mindless electro pop musician. Quite the contrary. At a couple of points during the 1 hour 40 minute set she made a point of thanking the fans for having open minds and coming out to listen to the songs done a different way because she had been playing music that way for longer than she had been doing the electro pop thing. Genuine just like her music no matter how she plays it.
Starting off this evening was Sam Cash. The lanky, curly haired singer was armed with just a white electric guitar and his traveling storyteller-like personality, but managed to gain some new fans with his laidback style. To say his voice was gravely and gritty would be an understatement. It is the perfect companion to his music which continues along the path carved out by other Canadian indie artists like Jason Collet and Joel Plaskett. He is young at a mere 21-years-old but his roots rock songs are from a time ago.
1) Flux and Flow
2) Second Go
3) Everybody Breaks a Glass
4) Heavy Rope
5) Where the Fence is Low
8) Timing is Everything
10) Joga (Bjork cover)
12) Cactus in the Valley
13) Drive My Soul
14) Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (U2 cover)
15) Peace Sign
16) Romance Is