WASHINGTON, April 03, 2014 – It’s sometimes easy to overlook that when someone like St. Lucia is up on stage, the individual you’re watching and hearing is not only part of a band, but a solo artist in his own right. That was certainly the reality when this artist recently performed at the Black Cat. He was indeed part of a band. But the reality was that he was very much performing as a solo star as well.
The reason for this stems from St. Lucia’s musical and personal roots. Born Jean-Phillip Grobler in South Africa – he ended up being raised in Brooklyn where he still resides. His musical alter-ego of St. Lucia accomplishes any number of things.
But the most important fact is that this second identity separates the person from the persona to a certain extent, allowing Grobler to perform on stage not just as a singer or with a band but something more than that: an artist with a unique musical identity.
This portrayal is relevant – especially while he’s up on stage – because while the set we heard here was written entirely by and for Grobler, these songs were still written and performed as if they were tailor-made for a band.
Adding another layer to his on stage persona, St. Lucia paradoxically makes no attempt to separate himself from his stage band. These songs, this performance, this band for all intents and purposes are all the extended personality of St. Lucia, and there’s no reason to think otherwise.
St. Lucia’s entire set here – which consists primarily of his first full length album, 2013’s “When the Night” – was very much modern synth-pop. The sound of this band in general is so in synch that it seems as if they’re an organic part of St. Lucia’s vocals.
The synthesizers, bass lines, and light, deft percussion effects all seem to blend together to the point where it’s difficult to discern a single individual sound. They essentially play as one instrument, but an instrument that emphasizes St. Lucia’s vocals.
St. Lucia’s sound has a very definite retro vibe to it, but it also adds several modern touches that influence the overall gloss of the output, much of which feels like a DJ remixing some of the better ‘80s new wave sounds. This isn’t to say that this ensemble is borrowing anything specific from the ‘80s band sound. Instead, it’s more of a general feeling, an aura that sounds distinctly ‘80s, except for the fact that much of what they’re doing actually didn’t exist back then. It’s an interesting effect.
The selling point of St. Lucia’s performance is just how mellow and light hearted the whole affair is. That’s in considerable contrast to the way modern pop has a tendency to be angular and driving. Granted, it doesn’t take long for St. Lucia to get into a groove.
But nothing that this singer or this band does ever feels rushed or even pushed along. It sometimes approaches the feeling of methodical pop. Yet it never falls into that due to the certain yet indescribable warmth that infuses everything St. Lucia plays.
The St. Lucia sound is clearly enhanced by having a full band performs this music on stage. Ultimately each of the songs St. Lucia presents benefits from this fuller, broader sound. The set the singer and the band combined to perform here very much felt like a dance band show, which appears to be the exact atmosphere St. Lucia is always trying to craft. If that’s the case, their appearance here must be judged a great success.