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LIGHTS And Wild Party At The Fonda: Show Review

Sivani |
November 12, 2014 | 11:36 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

LIGHTS at the Fonda, Tuesday night. (Sivani)
LIGHTS at the Fonda, Tuesday night. (Sivani)

In the best possible way, experiencing LIGHTS in-person is quite unlike listening to her on your phone or even watching a live YouTube performance. 

Picture this: It's November 11th, a Tuesday night. You arrive at the Fonda, your heart soaring. You duck into the bathroom that you almost think isn’t a bathroom because it looks so cool and swanky, and nod in approval at the girls dressed in sparkly headbands and skinny jeans discussing what is to come.

They are excited. You are excited. You’ve been excited since “The Listening,” and your expectations have only compounded with each subsequent release-- “Siberia” from a few years ago, “Little Machines,” her latest release from this year (not to mention those flawless interim acoustic records).

You worm your way to a spot in the corner that isn’t too crowded. Room to dance, you think. You will regret this a little later, partly because of the overtly affectionate couple right beside you, partly because of the guy and girl in front of you who stand still as lampposts the whole time.

READ MORE: The Pretty Reckless At The Wiltern: Review

But that all falls by the wayside in the face of your intense anticipation. You expect to be impatient during the opening act, Wild Party. Hey - you tried! You listened to their top singles on Spotify en route to the venue, didn’t you?

But wait. You’re kind of enjoying this. Turns out, they’re pretty killer live. The lead singer belts with an effortless energy and the band plays with vigor to match. You berate yourself a little for not listening to their whole album. Wild Party puts on the kind of live performance suggested by their name – it’s a fun, frenetic pop medley, and it was worth coming out early to see. All the same, you are not sad to see them make their exit, because you know what it signals.

But there’s the wait. The couple next to you make out some more. People scroll through Facebook feeds and snap selfies. You stare pensively at the stage curtains and jolt with desperate hope every time they twitch. After a while, you think you might just be imagining it. You sigh and look away.

The curtains pull up. Screams everywhere. A small pixie-like figure dressed in black skinnies and a crop top comes into your view. Is this real life?

“Muscle Memory” is first. You almost can’t enjoy it to its fullest because you’re too busy pondering the previous question. By the time she goes into “Toes,” though, you are ready to get your dance on. LIGHTS captures your attention and then, without pause, pushes into another one from the latest record: “How We Do It.” It was never your favorite song, but hearing it in person, sung in raw exultance by the woman who wrote it, it is painted in a new light.

LIGHTS then breaks into some small talk with the audience. She explains that the next song is about winter, which she admits is a little out of place here in LA. The crowd doesn’t care – the crowd goes wild. She launches into “My Boots,” her quintessential winter song. Keeping with the frosty theme, she follows up with the title track from her second album, “Siberia.” The gritty synth sounds mixed with LIGHTS’ light and powerful vocals sound absolutely amazing live. Ditto with the slower tempo, thoughtful songs that follow: “Running With The Boys,” “The Last Thing On Your Mind,” and “Portal.”

Note that you do not break into tears at the end of “Portal,” like you usually do every time you listen to it in the semi-darkness of your cramped apartment room, alone. You do realize you’re crying at the closing notes of “Drive My Soul,” a song that never quite stuck with you before. Something about its live rendering – the warm amber lights, her at the keyboard, her voice (far matured from all those years ago when she first released the song) lend the lyrics a fresh weight. It’s your new favorite, now.

LIGHTS does not whip out an acoustic guitar at any point, which may disappoint some (though perhaps hints at what is to come – acoustic “Little Machines” album, anyone?). She does sit down for an intimate piano rendition of “Don't Go Home Without Me,” a somber take that is refreshingly different from the carefree whimsy of the recorded version.

And then it’s a magnificent, pulsing succession of tunes from “Siberia” mixed in with “Little Machines”: “Speeding,” “Where The Fence Is Low,” “Banner,” “Timing Is Everything” and “Same Sea.” Before “Timing Is Everything,” LIGHTS encourages the audience to join in on her “awkward dancing.” You happily oblige; the people around you are less enthusiastic. That guy near you hoists up his tiny girlfriend to aid her view while giving you the side-eye every time you flail your arms a little too extravagantly.

But you don’t really care. The show “ends” and the crowd’s collective heart is breaking. Whistles and raucous cheers morph into a chant: “Up. We. Go. Up. We. Go. Up. We. Go.”

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So LIGHTS and her laudably capable band members return to the stage for an encore of two: “Up We Go” and “Oil And Water.” The first, her lead single from “Little Machines,” sounds like it was born to be performed live. Again, you are blown away by how LIGHTS takes all the songs you were less inclined to and almost forces you to love them by way of pure passion and incredible vocal talent.

You realize the difference between LIGHTS live and LIGHTS recorded is similar to the discrepancy between a microwaveable meal and a freshly home cooked dinner. Where one satisfies, the other fiercely inspires. You mean this not as a harsh critique, but as an admittance of ignorance: You never knew what you were missing.

“Nothing is the same forever,” LIGHTS sings on “Oil And Water,” her parting song with the audience. And on the metro ride back, as you relive every song she performed once more through your $20 dollar earbuds, you have to agree. Seeing LIGHTS live has forever tainted your experience with listening to her records, as wonderfully produced as they may be…

She’s just that good.


Reach Staff Reporter Sivani here. 



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