WASHINGTON, December 04, 2015 – It’s been three years since the Canadian pop star LIGHTS last played at Washington DC’s 9:30 Club. Those three plus years have been somewhat tumultuous for this singer. Not only did she release a new album, Little Machines, in 2014. She’s given birth to her first child.
Life-changing events like these can have a dramatic change on performers, though they don’t always acknowledge this during a concert performance. During her recent performance, LIGHTS acknowledged her lengthy absence in and around the DC area during her recent performance at the 9:30 Club. But she left out a few details of the story.
LIGHTS also had good things to say about the 9:30 Club, something that’s not exactly uncommon among artists who perform there. While such observations may at times be more rote than sincere, there’s enough evidence to suggest that Light does actually have good memories of her appearances here, even if the last one happened several years ago.
LIGHTS has been performing professionally since she was 15 years old. All the while, she’s projected such earnestness and genuineness on stage that it’s hard not to take it face value. All her energy is and always has been plain to see onstage, and she instinctively projects her every emotion.
Despite all of the energy she demonstrates during a live performance, her recent life changes have definitively altered the way she performs, yet subtly and generally for the better as demonstrated during her live performance here.
As for the show itself, LIGHTS’ two opening acts were like looking into the artist’s past. Both Phases and The Mowgli’s [sic] are synth-friendly indie rock bands possessing a less singular identity than LIGHTS when they’re onstage. The Mowgli’s are an impressive mass of a band whose members overlap in various ways that create a uniquely changing soundscape that echoed throughout the 9:30 Club during their performance.
Phases is in some ways an indie rock supergroup that’s working through its early stages as they put out a sound that doesn’t yet seem completely settled.
The band’s name – “Phases” – almost seems like a pun at their own expense, given that they started out and released their first album back under the name “Jjamz,” perhaps an earlier “phase.” Even so, its members have covered a lot of ground in the indie rock circuit already, given that they’re either former members of, or have performed with bands like Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes, Phantom Planet, and the Like. And it shows.
Their sound today is flawlessly indie. It’s sharp and their writing is crisp, signifying that this foursome shares considerable experience. The precision of their playing eventually yields to the fun, bouncy energy they play with.
By the time they got to their third song in their performance here, their musical hooks become almost second nature for the audience. Near the end of their set, front woman ZBerg enticed the audience to sing along, without any doubt they’d happily acquiesce—which they did.
The kind of pure energy and music this show’s opening acts were putting out was exactly where LIGHTS was the last time she made an appearance in DC. During that appearance, she could have pulled out some interesting tricks. But at the time, she was content to bounce around the stage and be seen as the bright singer who kept blasting through each pop song on the menu.
This time, things seemed slower and more intimate. After about a half hour into her set, she decided to start playing acoustic versions of select songs from her new album, demonstrating a softer side of her normally glossy pop/rock character. She clearly perked up once she did the mode shift, moving very effectively away from her more recognizable wheelhouse.
That seems to be the most important thing to note about the 2015 edition of LIGHTS. It’s so easy for a pop artist of her caliber to fall into familiar rhythms and old habits. Becoming stale isn’t artistically enticing. But the familiarity of a longtime sound and persona can be comforting to an artist which is why the two often go hand in hand.
Seeing LIGHTS evolve on stage, moving forward rather than regressing, is both encouraging and refreshing. As an artist, she continues to mature, yet still retains a vital link to her own energetic pop standards. Nothing during her show at the 9:30 Club betrayed what she’s already built. But she is also opening up doors for the future.