PREFACE: I was recently in Italy for three weeks traveling alone and there was really no music scene or dancing to be found. I learned music and dancing gets in the way of talking. I mention this because maybe my review is colored by the fact I was starved for music and dancing and upon my return home, LP brought all of that to the Fox Theater, Monday.
If you follow my shows or writings you might be aware that I have dubbed Tami Nielsen the greatest modern vocalist going; tone, emotion, phrasing, power, restraint… it is all there for me.
Having now seen LP live I may have found a close second. LP definitely has the wider range hitting the whistle register, to say nothing of just straight up whistling with a skill I haven’t heard since Bing Crosby. My one quibble would be LP sometimes lacks the restraint a lot of modern belters lack. As if they know how great their vocals are and will prove it to you for the entire show. I find that this is product of the reality TV singing-show mess, where in order to win you have to outdo everyone else with vocal a-bombs. And that is one of only two things I found to grouse about with the performance. I will address my second quibble later.
LP is a musician who has been around since 2001 and at this point is so huge she sells out stadiums in Europe and South America and yet here in her home country she only managed to get the Fox Theater in Oakland half-full. Fine. More room for me to dance, I guess. And I did plenty of that.
The first thing that became apparent when the lights dropped and LP took the stage with the band is that despite being a half capacity crowd they were going to perform as if it was a sold out arena. I’ve been to the Fox before when it has been packed and I can attest no act I have ever seen there made it feel like I was at a sold out Santa Rosa Stadium where I saw Elton John on his farewell tour. But LP made it feel that big.
I barely know one song in the whole LP catalog, “One Like You”. A song I heard thanks to The Current a radio station out of Minnesota. Yet, that didn’t stop me from singing along to every song and throwing my fists in the air when the music punched. I have a special ability to predict where music is going, so even on songs I have not heard I will anticipate a place to kick my leg in the air, or spin, or in more dramatic flair fall to my knees. It is in part why people come up to me at shows or clubs professing how much they love my energy and sometimes asking how I know every song, even though I don’t.
And I suppose this speaks to how catchy all LP’s songs are because every song felt like a song I knew even though I was hearing them for the first time. They all had the arena energy of Journey at their peak 80s but with the style of songs of the 2010s and of acts like Empire Of The Sun or St. Lucia. Big room sounds that were popular before all the reggaeton & mid-tempo 2 minute songs that go nowhere began to dominate.
The set was dressed simply in a series or neon vertical towers that rose and fell with the music, screaming Miami Vice and the whole synthwave aesthetic. It added just enough to the mood without overtaking the band on stage. I find as I get older, theatrics at concerts don’t do much for me anymore (if they ever did). If the songs are good enough they should not need backup dancers and giant architecture and flames. All it should require is band on stage ripping it up (like musicians did back at Woodstock or Live Aid).
I find older acts; Elton John, The Stones, Bonnie Raitt etc. adhere to this more so than the newer pop stars who seem like they are trying to out do, Cirque du soleil. Remember when Katy Perry had that neon tiger and dancing sharks at halftime and then Prince just had Prince and the rain?
LP leans towards the Prince ethos on stage making you dance and shout and scream just by putting out catchy songs. Those towards the front of stage could be heard singing along to almost every song. And the cheers much like the music itself felt like the volume of an arena crowd.
I am listening to the new LP album, Love Lines as I write this. And I will say some of the songs come off as Eurovision ready. They are so sleekly produced that they don’t have the same raw melt your face temperature I saw live. A song like, “Long Goodbye” sounds like a song ABBA would have recorded during the “Fernando” era. It’s not a knock it just shows what a good live show can do to transform a song or transform one’s perception of an artist.
When sung live it sounded more or less the same but was not scrubbed clean of any grit. It also didn’t sound like a marketing team was trying to create the next hit single. So even as a ballad it managed to make my face slide a little down my face from the heat. And this is what I expect from “live” shows all this “singing” with backing tracks BS, and the excuses musicians and fans make for it (i.e. dancing and singing at the same time is SO hard) can piss off. I’m paying for a live show, if I want to hear the record I’ll stay home. And if you can’t sing/play live practice until you can or just stay home. I want live shows to take me somewhere the record can’t, change the tempo add an extra verse or intersperse another artists song halfway through… This is not a Saturday night cover band sing-a-long at local bar, melt my face.
And that face melting volume and energy was amazing but also started to feel like too much of the same. And you couple that with vocals that never let up. Vocals that would have had 90s Mariah Carey doing double takes, the show started to feel like it lacked variety in tone. But in fairness maybe the bangers were so bangin’ they overshadowed any quieter moments. I did dance pretty hard the entire time after all.
And again LP was bringing arena energy to a theater. And that was pretty stunning energy to witness. It was top tier androgyny of Bowie with the swagger of Freddie that many current pop stars try to emulate but fall short of, in my opinion. The venue could have had ten people in attendance and I am sure the bands energy would have been the same. The people, no matter how many, paid for a show and by-gum LP and company were gonna give it to them.
Back to the album for a moment, on songs like, “One Like You” you can hear takeaways from Phil Spector’s wall of sound, especially the Christmas recordings with the chimes and bells and big drums. And songs like, “Hola” bring a bossa nova flair. So clearly LP has a wide variety of influences mixing into the sound but it impressive just how much more hard rock they all sound live. So maybe what we need is a live album or concert video to really show off the goods to the masses.
My favorite song of the night was, “Everybody’s Falling In Love”. And being a new song to me I looked it up on YouTube and I still like it but hearing it live the energy was ten times what you hear on record. Also of note, most of the YouTube comments are not in English again showing how LP is bigger outside the US. To, which, I have to be blunt here… mainstream US music tastes over that last 10-15 years have been very mid and mediocre to me. As if the major labels have given up nurturing and fostering unique voices and just play it safe and the audience are either too lazy or too worn out to seek anything of better quality. Pit LP against any major popstar running today and a music fan with any sense will say LP is the better musician overall. But you average music fan will say, “Why do we always have to make a competition?”
LP is a unique voice and people have argued that unique never goes mainstream. But sold out stadiums in South America and Europe say otherwise. Also LP is nearing mid-40s and in the US your 30s (or even 20s) is when we usually put pop stars are put out to pasture. This is not true in Europe where people like Kylie still sell out stadiums. Heck, Madonna became bigger in Europe in the 2000s having more hits abroad than in the US. Tina Turner also became bigger in Europe in her later years. US, ageism at it’s finest methinks. To say nothing of LP being queer, specifically non-binary probably also is being a factor.
But screw that jive, the “Love Lines” tour is running up and down CA throughout November, so if you want the epicness of The Eras tour for a fraction of the price with the best vocalist this side of 80s Steve Perry find a way to go and lay your dollars down at the door. Just be warned, it’s like Plato’s the Cave… once you’ve seen LP live you the shadows of other pop-rock show you see henceforth may feel like a rip-off.
WHAT YOU WITNESSED OR WHAT YOU MISSED:
2. Love song
3. Burn It Down
4. Girls Go Wild
5. One Like You
6. The One That You Love
7. Big Time
10. Love Lines
11. Too Much
12. Hold The Light
13. Lost on You
14. Everybody’s Falling in Love
16. No Witness
18. Long Goodbye
20. When We’re High
21. One Last Time
Everybody’s Falling In Love