The best way to spend Valentine’s Day, in my opinion, is at a concert. And what better way to celebrate it with St. Lucia, a Brooklyn based synth pop band that came through the Observatory last night and blew the crowd away at one of the largest shows on their tour.
South African frontman Jean-Philip Grobler may not have spoken to the crowd much throughout the show, but what he lacked in speech he made up for in captivating vocals that were completely harmonious with the rest of the band. Grobler and his band opened with “The Old House Is Gone” and I was overwhelmed with just how anthemic their songs were.
The 80s-esque synth-driven vibes of “The Night Comes Again,” “We Got It Wrong,” and “Closer Than This” were filled with a captivating energy that actually took my breath away. With sounds that reminisce the Temper Trap, Chvrches and even hints of Passion Pit, St. Lucia’s performance filled the room, with each band member releasing an uplifting fervor that you felt right along with them.
And the crowd ate up every bit, especially when the band performed their singles “All Eyes On You,” and “Elevate.” But it was the slow, acoustic rendition of “Paper Heart,” sung by band member Patricia Beranek, that beautifully broke up the dancing for a bit before the dance beat came back up again. St. Lucia then went right into the energetic, beat-driven “September” and “Too Close.” It was simply perfection.
Each song on the band’s debut album When The Night has an airy, dream-like quality that gets you lost in your thoughts, but in a good way. Their music is perfectly crafted synth pop that gets you pumped, but still keeps you relaxed enough to feel every beat. St. Lucia breathes a new life into the music scene; it’s fresh, upbeat, and honestly, quite breathtaking.
As the first opener began to play, I could have sworn I was hearing Augustana circa 2008. Alas, it was Swedish-American five-piece Grizfolk who’ve joined Bastille on their Bad Blood The Last Stand tour. And Grizfolk can rock. They blew me away; Grizfolk’s electro-rock sound, fused with folk elements, filled the room. They played songs from their From the Spark EP, like the folk-infused “The Struggle” and closing with the Augustana-esue, piano-driven “Hymnals” that got the crowd clapping along. I only new two songs coming in, but after this set I’ve been listening to their music on repeat. Check out the EP here.
After Grizfolk came a 20-year-old soulful, pop and R&B singer named Ella Eyre, who blew everyone away as well. Her raspy voice lends to catchy lyrics that really hit home, like “take that pain and make that motherfucker burn” from her recent single “Comeback.” She dedicated that song to “anyone who has ever treated you like shit.” Ella got the crowd singing and dancing along, despite being virtually unknown to everyone there. With chops that rival Adele and an impressive lyrical maturity, this girl’s going places.
The screams could not have gotten any louder when the lights dimmed for headliners Bastille to take the stage. Dan and his band killed it bringing songs off their album Bad Blood to life, throwing in everything from new songs to covers too that true Bastille fans cried out in excitement over. Every song was executed so beautifully, so intricately, and with such an epic quality that it gave me goose bumps.
Bastille opened with “Things We Lost In The Fire” and churned out songs that in their own right are singles, like “The Weight of Living,” “Laura Palmer,” and “Icarus.” Each song sounded better than the recorded version, which is not an easy feat. Special moments from the set included the debut of a few new songs, one called “The Driver,” off of Bastille’s upcoming mixtape, VS (Other People’s Heartache pt III) out Dec. 8, and another titled “Blame,” off their sophomore album that will come out “at some point next year,” according to Dan.
With scenes from their music videos playing behind them and colorful lights to match each beat, the show was one of the best I’ve seen in a while. Excitement heightened more when Bastille brought Ella out for a surprise, energetic TLC and The xx mash-up, “No Angels.”
Dan’s chops during slower-paced songs like “Oblivion,” “Get Home” and “Overjoyed” were striking as well; these stripped down songs were perfect ways to break up the dancing, but not the energy. Bastille ended with “The Silence,” “Flaws,” which Dan sang through the crowd during, and the electronic-fused, upbeat “Of the Night.” And of course, how could one forget “Pompeii.” The band brought out both openers to join them on stage, and since it was the last night of their tour, they took a photo on stage with the crowd before ending the show with a bang. Bastille’s perfect harmonies and ability to take their album on a whole new level made for a show to be remembered.
It doesn't get much better than Guster. The band, who hasn’t toured in a few years, played their second show of 2015 at the House of Blues in Anaheim last night in support of their latest album, Evermotion. The packed crowd was on the older side, seemingly so since the band’s been around since ‘91.
Opening for Guster was Kishi Bashi, a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter from Athens, Georgia who is also a member of Of Montreal and Regina Spektor’s band. Kishi Bashi’s music style is a unique one, with a focus on looping beats either created through beat boxing or vocals, as well as instruments like a violin and ukulele. Kishi Bashi, or Kaoru Ishibashi, had tons of energy for being a solo performer, and the variety in his music made for an interesting set; his songs ranged from having an almost k-pop feel to some being more folk/singer-songwriter-eque. The crowd was totally into it, clapping and cheering, giving him just the boost he needed to finish out his dynamic set with more energy than he started with.
I truthfully was more excited to see Guster, who I’ve been a huge fan of since early high school, who killed their two-hour long set. Lead vocalist Ryan Gardner chatted with the crowd, telling us how their first show in Denver helped them work out a few kinks, and thanking the crowd for “being cool.” For being in a band for so long, these dudes give off such a relaxed and down to earth vibe; it makes for a great live show. Since their latest album was just released, Guster knew to play a bunch of classics, performing hits like “Careful,” “One Man Wrecking Machine,” “Manifest Destiny,” and my personal favorite, “Satellite.” Kishi Bashi even joined the band on stage for “Satellite,” contributing his violin for the chorus. I was bummed they did not play “Fa Fa” or “Barrel of a Gun,” though.
I did enjoy Guster’s songs from their latest release, Evermotion, like the beat-driven “Simple Machine” and the dreamy-pop “Lazy Love,” which gave off a very Beach Boys, breezy vibe. Each Guster song is packed with catchy beats and eloquent harmonies, and the band’s drummer, Brian Rosenworcel, even played with his bare hands and used different drums, like bongos, which was very cool to see on stage.
Gardner told us how they essentially “divided” the set into three acts, and leading into act three he jokes that often before each song he quickly does a mental checklist: "What key is this in? What instrument am I playing? What are the first words? Check, check.” He even joked about how most of his friends are from Los Angeles, but when he told them the show was in Anaheim, they were like, “No way…” Many of us Orange County folks can totally get that.
Of the other songs the band performed, some I recognized and some I didn't (but enjoyed anyway!). They included “What You Call Love,” “The Captain” and the uplifting, energetic, “This Could All Be Yours.” What makes Guster so special, and why they continue to garner fans and keep old ones, is their ability to harmonize so well and create great music. Evermotion doesn’t lose what makes Guster great, but the songs do seem to take on a more indie rock, laid back vibe, with catchy choruses and new instruments like trumpets and a glockenspiel, courtesy of the band’s newest band member, Luke Reynolds.
And what show would not include an encore that the band tells you is coming halfway through the set? After a quick costume change (Gardner came out in a tight-fitting Britney Spears long sleeve shirt), the band came back for a bass-driven jam session, and performed a few more songs like “I Spy,” “Bad Bad World,” and “Endlessly,” off of Evermotion.
If Guster comes to a town near you, go. Don’t hesitate, just go.