London – “Good evening, London! What a beautiful theatre… so many beautiful places here,” was how Jess Wolfe of Lucius responded to the reception afforded to the band’s two opening songs. Lucius loves London, and the city seems to hold the Brooklyn five-piece in similar regard, given the size of the crowd crammed into the three floors of Koko. Dating back to 1900, when it opened as the Camden Theatre, Koko has seen any number of reincarnations, from the Camden Hippodrome, where Charlie Chaplin was among its regular performers, to The Music Machine in the 70’s and then the home of New Romantics as Camden Palace. The splendour of this elaborate venue, dressed in red and gold, with its deep stage, expansive floor, and ornate tiered balconies, is made to measure for a theatrical performance, and boy, was that what we got!
As we awaited Lucius, the stage was bathed in crimson glow. It changed dramatically to opaque light, playing against a backcloth of intermittently lit circles, between which the band name was spelt out in large letters. Front women, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, faced each other across keyboards, flanked by single drums. There was something space age about the duo’s future-retro outfits of matching orange Mod-style dresses and short capes, decorated with lightning flashes, combined with shiny, scaly leggings and gold Pixie boots. “Madness” – the opening track from the band’s second album, Good Grief - provided the perfect launch pad for a show of blissful stage craft. The vocals rocketed despite the close attendance of a heavy bass synth.
The storm scarcely abated as Lucius followed the opener with “Tempest,” with the vocalists displaying an Abba-like connection. Strobe lighting accompanied tribal drums, as the band switched another gear with the aptly-titled “Nothing Ordinary,” while the vocal duo moved to centre stage for “Almost Makes Me Wish For Rain;” a cut from the new album, with a killer chorus. There are obvious nods to 60s girl groups in songs like the driving “Turn It Around,” yet Lucius’ repertoire shows a surprising range and an individualism that speaks of something much more contemporary. Much of this is down to the ever inventive instrumentation provided by guitarists Peter Lalish and Andrew Burri, along with percussionist Dan Molad and keyboards and samples woven in by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig.
Midway through the set, a new highpoint was reached in the shape of “Dusty Trails.” It signalled a change of mood and tempo, while showcasing the ease with which the singers switch to and from unison, peppering the song with some choice, rich harmonies along the way. It offered a kind of antidote to those life on the road experiences, delivered with heartfelt honesty that the audience really bought into. (You might get some idea of that from the alternative live version recorded in London earlier this year, posted below.)
The biggest cheer of the evening followed, and true to form, Lucius then gave us the party pop of “Born Again Teen.” It was the perfect juxtaposition. It was heading towards the kind of night where you feel guilty not name-checking every song. Whether it was acting out the fight the girls reportedly had, just before going into the studio to record “Gone Insane,” or channelling energies into hand claps and Brazilian beats during the opening of “Almighty Gosh,” each song took on its own identity, underlining the band’s powerful musicianship and skillful songwriting. Within moments of high drama, Lucius delivers on-stage fun in spades, and as a result, the crowd was clearly having a party. There was time for communal singing – “You guys know this?” – and guitars that cried and sung during “Go Home,” followed by birthday cake.
“Two of Us On The Run” saw Wolfe and Laessig sitting on the front of the stage, with a solo guitar accompaniment, before the rest of the band joined in with some gentle counterpoints. It was one of those magical moments in which it’s hard to dispel the thought that many of these songs are destined to become classics. Closing with “Better Look Back,” Lucius reinforced the feeling that this band brings a little something extra to live performances. Lucius’ stage show is visceral, dynamic, joyful, and vibrant. It stretches your senses.
Three encores duly followed: crystal vocals and playful guitar crowned a sumptuous cover of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” “How Loud Your Heart Gets” turned into an epic sonic assault of instruments and voices aided by dramatic lighting, and finally stage favourite “Genevieve” left the crowd on a genuine high. Elvis may have left the building, but Lucius has arrived.
Lucius is on tour now. A full list of tour dates can be found on the band’s Facebook page.
Photos by Maja Smiejkowska for Best New Bands
Tony’s great passion in life is music and nothing gives him more pleasure than unearthing good, original new music and championing independent musicians. His association with Best New Bands brings great opportunities for this. He also writes for Consequence of Sound and is a judge for Glastonbury Festival’s Emerging Talent Competition.
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