Seattle – A crowd of Seattleites gathered to see Lenka at Barboza. Having recently released her new album The Bright Side (Skipalong/Hickory Records), the Australian singer-songwriter is touring the United States to promote the record. Like the album, her live show is permeated with vibrancy and effervescence. After her darker-hued 2013 release Shadows, Lenka is now returning to her lighter side. As she told the Wall Street Journal, “I wanted to free up and experiment with a few different genres, but deliver the same message of striving for joy and meaning….I felt I needed to make a capsule of happiness to remind myself [of] later if I need it.”
Barboza’s audience certainly became encapsulated by that happiness at the get-go. Setting the vibe was Lenka’s whimsically designed stage, with colorful polka-dotted streamers flowing from the keyboard, cutout clouds with suns and raindrops hanging on the curtain backdrop. A giant glittering mosaic raindrop was also posted on the mic stand.
Shimmering synth and a pulsating drum beat kicked off the set as Lenka and her band, guitarist Trey Lockerbie, bassist Blake Straus, and drummer Taylor Dexter, launched into “Blue Skies,” the second track off her new album. Her pure voice floated on the chorus: “Blue skies for you and I/ We’ll step out of the shadows and walk into the light.”
Next Lenka went into “Heart Skips a Beat,” off her 2011 album Two, which features the sound of her own heart beating. After the song, she told the audience about the process of recording her heartbeat. “I had my nurse friend in the studio with me, she had a stethoscope,” she said. “We did like jumping jacks, ran in place and stuff, to make sure my heart was beating at the right pace!”
The singer has a knack for using rhythm, as the following “Nothing Here But Love” featured a captivating beat backing her delicate vocals. They carried into the simile-laden “Everything At Once,” before soaring into a chorus of, “Ah-ah-all I wanna be is everything.”
Next, picking up the tambourine, Lenka introduced her new song “Unique”. She just released a video for the song which features homemade clips of fans dancing, playing up the positive message: “I like to move around to a different beat….Cuz I am me and that’s unique.” The catchy “Oo-oo-woo’s” add to the upbeat number.
Lenka then invited her opening act, British singer-songwriter Nick Howard, onstage with her to perform their duet, “Stuck Like Glue.” Before singing, she described the song’s picturesque backstory: “Nick and I met in the English countryside, and we wrote this song in a gazebo.” The sweet, simple back-and-forth gave the tune a slightly country feel, a nice deviation from Lenka’s usual sound.
“We’re gonna go into ballad land for a little while,” she segued. “This is a song on the new album, called ‘Go Deeper,’ but it’s been waiting in the wings for nine years. I wrote it about my now-husband, it’s about wanting to take things further in a relationship – so it’s got good ju-ju!”
Floating synth and electronic ticks carry through the dreamy, imploring song. Then Lenka picked up the energy a bit with one of her early songs, “Don’t Let Me Fall,” off her self-titled 2008 album. It’s a sweet ditty, with bouncing keys and “Ah’s.”
“This one’s for anyone out there’s who’s pregnant,” she introduced her next song. “It’s written from perspective of my baby in the womb. It has his heartbeat in it. It’s called ‘Two Heartbeats.’”
With mysterious, almost eerie instrumentation, Lenka imagines her son in his “oasis…waking up in darkness/ Making [his] own consciousness.” Lenka followed that with “Here to Stay,” during which the crowd joined in chanting the chorus, “We are here to stay,” a rallying cry accompanied by powerful electric guitar.
“Do you feel like having a bit of a dance?” Lenka asked the audience before launching into the bouncy opening of Milky Chance’s “Stolen Dance” on her keytar. It was a great cover, the female vocals adding a lighter element to the German duo’s hit single. She succeeded in inciting the crowd to dance. Bodies were moving with abandon.
“Trouble is a Friend,” one of her well-known tracks from early in her career, led into her most popular song, “The Show”. The entire audience sang along, enjoying themselves. A strong closing to the set, Lenka and her band left the stage to hardy applause, the crowd begging for an encore.
The singer took the stage again, pleased with the reception. She played the waltz-like tune “Like a Song,” her vocals haunting and beautiful. Finally, she ended the night’s performance with “The Bright Side,” which builds with shimmering synth, jaunty keys, claps, and “A-woah,” and echoes her early hit “The Show.” The title track of her new album, “The Bright Side” captures the bright, upbeat energy of the delightful singer-songwriter.
For more information on Lenka, including tour dates, visit her website or Facebook page.
Photo of Lenka by Caitlin Peterkin
With degrees in journalism and music, Caitlin’s written for Paste Magazine, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and MajoringinMusic.com. She loves cheese, laughing at GIFs of corgis, road trip sing-alongs, and connecting with people over good beer and good music.