January 20, 2011
Cedar Cultural Center
Temperatures outside may be abominably subzero, but for the crowd assembled inside the Cedar Cultural Center for Lissie, last night was anything but cold. Lissie walked on stage with a big smile brighter than stage lights, and she carried that sun-kissed energy all through the night.
[jump] Lissie kicked off her 10-song set with her cover of Hank William's "Wedding Bells", and as she wailed into the microphone, the smile disappeared. Every song she launched into was like a gritty, stomped-on offering of her heart to the audience--who gladly accepted. On her debut album Catching a Tiger, released in August 2010, Lissie's a stand-out vocalist with her Joni Mitchell-style confessional lyrics; live, Lissie is a spitfire of a songstress, with air-piercing electric guitar strings that make her songs vibrate with life. In person, on stage, Lissie is the farthest thing from the tame, coffeehouse singer-songwriter type you might expect.
Lissie shared the stage with two band mates that she made a point of repeatedly introducing--and with good reason, as they were enormously talented and definitely helped carry the show. While Eric Sullivan's electric guitar solos never overpowered Lissie's voice (it would be hard to, because man, what a voice she has), they were like odes to classic rock heroes, and the crowd ate it up. Lewis Keller had a triple task for the evening: bass guitar, drums, and back vocals, all of which he did simultaneously; a talented triple-force indeed.
As she tuned her guitar between songs, her onstage banter consisted of a lot of story telling, a lot of setting up the song and telling the audience what it was about. She said by way of introducing "Bully": "This song is kind of like guidelines for how to live a good life... and just to remember that there's always people out there who love you." It might sound insincere or stale, but the way Lissie said it, with her big deep eyes and her sweetheart face, made you believe it. The fact of the matter is, though, that Lissie could pretty much say anything and the crowd would have believed her.
As charmingly talkative as she was, Lissie was also heavy on tradition. After she talked about filing her video for "Everywhere I Go" in the company of an elephant, she picked up a little brass elephant figuring and kissed it, explaining that she needed to "honor the ritual." Later, in the encore, Lissie took a shot of tequila and rocketed into her final song--a cover of Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness", ending the evening on a fist-pumping high note.
Critic's Bias: I went in expecting to love it, but I figured it would be a quiet evening; Lissie's Catching a Tiger record was powerful, but seeing her live, she's more of a rockstar than the quiet girl strumming a guitar.
The Crowd: Extremely well-behaved--both Lissie and her opener, Dylan Leblanc, continued to comment on how wonderful the crowd was, and the love was spread around thick.
Overheard In The Crowd: After Lissie told the audience it was unusual for her to be wearing the "rock 'n' roll outfit" she had (faux leather leggings and cowboy boots), claiming that she was just a "jeans and t-shirt kind of girl", she remarked that "You guys probably didn't notice at all and don't care"... to which two of my male friends mentioned to each other: "We noticed."
Random Notebook Dump: Dylan Leblanc should absolutely not go unmentioned. That dude was seriously phenomenal. If the Pieces of You version of Jewel were a male, she would have been Leblanc--this soft-spoken southern boy with songs that sounded like graveyard lullabies. The audience was captivated and many were visibly shaken by the broken-hearted delivery of his music. He should have a new album out in summer this year.
For more photos: See our complete slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.
When I'm Alone
Everywhere I Go
Pursuit of Happiness