Tuesday, Lights closed out a night of high octane pop including co-headliners The Mowglis and local opener K.Flay. The evening had a little something for every kind of pop fan.
Starting the night off was K.Flay, definitely one of the most buzzed about local acts, having first made a splash while attending Stanford. Her songs straddle the border of traditional hip hop and more alternative electronic beats. The lyrics come at you fast but with gymnastic like precision, and one can’t help but marvel at the way she changes the inflections of words in her art. A lot of credit should go to the thoughtfulness of the live show; incorporating guitar and a live drummer brings an authenticity that can be lacking in when it’s just a rapper with a drum machine on stage.
The Mowglis are maybe the happiest band I’ve ever seen, to the point where I was questioning if I have ever truly experienced happiness. They feel like an airy, pop-forward version of Bombay Bicycle Club, packing the stage with musicians and singers and putting the harmonious vocals front and center. While I couldn’t personally connect with their music, I could not believe the passion shown by their fans. It was refreshing to hear everyone singing along and bouncing to the beat.
For me, Lights stole the show and proved she just might be Canada’s top pop export. I have to admit that I started listening to Lights late in the game with her 2014 release “Little Machines.” By the time I added her music to my playlists she was already a known commodity, especially in her native Canada. But people have more than just a connection to the music, she is a fan favorite because of her willingness to interact with people at shows, in social media and even in popular online games.
I knew I was a fan of Lights’ records, but I wasn’t expecting just how dynamic she was live. While the stage had some nice light elements she didn’t rely on gimmicks or in your face visuals. Lights at face value plays a blend of electronic rock highlighted by her vocals. She also plays with her vocals layering them and manipulating them for some really interesting song structures. I got my first real taste of her chemistry with the band when they transformed the outro song “Muscle Memory” into a raucous jam of synth, guitar and pounding drums. It’s always amazing when artists can take a song you think you know and and elevate it live.
Once I thought I had her pegged as a pop rocker she went and flipped the script with an intimate, acoustic mini set. She started with one of her recent hit singles “Meteorites” and then transitioned to older song “Peace Sign,” a song about strife in Toronto. Although written about her personal experiences in Canada, the song really resonates with what is happening here in the U.S. and across the world. Rounding out the interlude she threw it back with a fan favorite, “Second Go” and had her fans in the crowd singing along.
Lights took the opportunity late in the set to get down to crowd level and meet some of her intensely passionate fans. This seems to be a hallmark for her, a real connection and shared energy with her admirers. She ended a night of newer hits and old favorites with hit “Up We Go,” followed by a one song encore “Banner.”
Lights plays tonight in Tempe Arizona and closes this leg of the tour in San Diego tomorrow. In March she begins her UK tour.