Review: The charismatic Lucius joins the World Cafe Live crowd
They hail from Brooklyn and they pack a punch. They paid a visit to World Cafe Live in support of their debut album, Wildewoman. They are characterized by synergy in every way: compositionally, instrumentally, sonically, vocally and even visually. They stand out in the mundane world of alternative music. They are Lucius, and they’re destined for greatness.
Lucius is the fusion of singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig backed by multi-instrumentalists Andrew Burri, Peter Lalish and Dan Molad. They each sport their own breed of charisma on top of their matching (and needless to say, fashionable) raiments. The stage is set up in near perfect symmetry: Wolfe and Laessig face each other over keyboards and percussion at center stage with Burri and Molad, each with half of a drum set, to the singers’ left and right respectively, while guitarist Lalish hovers behind the female doppelgängers. The result is striking; percussive and vocal elements arrive in equilibrium from both sides, while guitar textures and electronic sounds remain centered, making for auditory balance unlike anything I’ve ever heard. The visual, of course, is equally as impressive, Wolfe and Laessig donning matching violin-patterened dresses with ‘60s style white collars in addition to their well coordinated hair cuts and black knee socks, while the men of the group wore identical black suits and even seemed to be alike in the facial hair department.
The quintet opened their set with a stripped down cover of The Beatles’ “Free as a Brid”, showcasing in particular the Wolfe and Laessig’s perfect harmonies, which contrasted harshly with Lalish’s near abrasive yet surprisingly appropriate guitar playing. For a second song, fans were treated to “Don’t Just Sit There”, during which Wolfe and Laessig sing in unison rather than in harmony, something they’ve highlighted to be a crucial aspect of their idiosyncratic sound. Alone, they’re excellent singers; together, they’re a voice unlike anything you’ve ever heard, and it’s part of what makes Lucius so special. They then moved into a variation of “Genevieve” from their recent EP which was much more rhythmically intriguing and percussive than what is played on the recording. Wolfe and Laessig trade rhythms on the wood block and floor tom respectively, pounding out patterns in a near violent manner, while drummer Molad and fellow multi-instrumentalist Burri fill in the empty space with off-beat eccentricity.
Lucius then worked their way into “Tempest”, a popper, more synth-heavy tune that came alive mostly thanks to Lalish and Burri’s shimmering guitar playing during its introduction, plus a great deal of beautifully dynamic singing from Wolfe and Laessig. Several songs later, they performed “How Loud Your Heart Gets”, the chorus of which seemed to sound even more distilled and soulful than on the recording, if that is at all possible. “Nothing Ordinary”, another favorite of mine, was the edgy union of distorted guitar, the steady pulse of Molad’s bass drum and passionately shrill vocals that could only work if perfectly executed, and execute perfectly they did. They concluded their set with an energetic rendition of the title track of their debut album, “Wildewoman”.
For encores, Lucius opened up with “Turn it Around”, the two-one handclap tune that harkens back to the ‘60s girl-groups that inspire them. Lucius then did something nobody expected: play unplugged in the middle of the crowd as a part of a little tradition they like to call the “love circle”. They played, rather appropriately, “Two of Us on the Run”, and fans giddy with excitement took to their smartphones to document the experience, turning the crowd into an oscillating night sky full of phone screen stars. They finished the show practically how they’d started it: with a cover of Paul McCartney’s “Goodbye”.
Lucius was joined by the folk-punk group Kingsley Flood, who surprised a then small crowd with their energy and intensity, and for a majority of their tunes, I felt the level of musicianship and composition was top-notch, though certain songs felt to be slightly overkill.
Lucius represents so many things that so many other bands do not. They incorporate layers of percussion, textured sounds and most importantly, two voices acting as one that amount to something special. They’re fun-loving, charismatic people and great musicians, and one thing is for sure: Lucius is going places.
Free as a Bird (The Beatles cover)
Don’t Just Sit There
Until We Get There
How Loud Your Heart Gets
Turn It Around
Two of Us on the Run
Goodbye (Paul McCartney cover)