o2 Academy 3, Birmingham
By Glenn Rossington
I will be the first to admit that until about a week before this gig, I had never listened to anything by Lights and can confess to possibly not even knowing much about her. I mentioned to a few friends that I was going and they knew more than I did. I felt maybe they should be here and not me, but I’m game and always love the thought of discovering someone new to have a listen to. The first thing I found by her on Spotify was her acoustic ep which I loved. Without listening to anything else I headed to the venue and started to think “It was an acoustic ep, I wonder what the ‘normal’ stuff sounds like”.
As I arrived at the venue, I was taken aback by the queue. Skrillex were in the main room tonight and assumed the queue was for him… it wasn’t, they had already been let in. I didn’t realise that tonight’s gig from Lights was actually sold out! It took me another 15 minutes to get in and sort my pass out. It was a chore fighting through the crowd to the press pit, but the sense that something special was about to happen was hanging in the air. I don’t get this feeling very often, but when it arrives, I am not usually too far from the truth!
Support tonight comes in the form of Nightbox who warm the crowd up stupendously. Perfect mix of Indie and pop, I can now sense the type of music I will get later. As they finish and walk off the stage, there is a massive buzz in the air, lots of excitement from the front rows and even heading to the bar at the back of the venue. Eventually the lights dip and her band walk on stage. They kick into the intro of ‘Banner’ a track off her soon to be released in the UK album ‘Siberia’. She walks on stage and instantly runs to the mic and starts singing amidst squeals of excitement from the young fans on the barrier. Credit where credit is due, the girl can sing. There are no signs of autotune, and the band are playing live. ‘Banner’ sounds like a full ‘call to arms’ kinda tune, quiet and hushed verses then a euphoric sounding chorus, a perfect opening to be honest.
‘Fourth Dimension’ and ‘Ice’ follow and are intersected with the biggest grins from Lights Poxleitner (her full name) showing that she can feel the appreciation in the room. She finally greets us and says how ‘wonderful’ it is to be back in the UK after a period of writing and recording in her native Toronto. As the gig gets into a full swing, it becomes apparent just how serious Lights takes her ‘job’. She is incredibly professional and everything is doen with the most minimal of movements. Her centre stage position is surrounded on either side by synth-keyboards which she flicks between whist she isn’t singing. ‘Flux And Flow’ and ‘Everybody Breaks A Glass’ are perfect slices of ‘pop’, there are young girls on the barrier completely lost in the music, others idolising her, not taking an eye off her every move, and others are watching the band members.
The next track, for me, is a nice deviation in the set so far. Her band walk off stage and she heads to the stage right (or stage left from the audience perspective) and sits down at a keyboard. She interacts with the crowd slightly and even wishes ‘Happy Birthday’ to a devoted young fan in the front row, reaching over the small pit to shake her hand which is resulted in squeals of delight from the birthday girl. So the next track is called ‘Pretend’ and is off her debut record ‘The Listening’. I always admire people who can take a single instrument, a guitar, a piano/keyboard etc… and who need nothing else but that instrument and their voice. I am not familiar with the track, but he performance was faultless. The vocal silenced the room as everyone listened intently. It was a very moving moment and something a bit lighter than a full set of ‘pop music’ for my ears.
The band return and kick off the next number. We are given a rendition of the title track from the new record ‘Siberia’. It has such a familiar sound to it that I still cannot place it. One of those records that get your feet tapping and has a bit of a background groove to it, quite a good track all in all. After a few more tracks, the set closes on the duo of ‘Saviour’ and ‘Toes’. The first of the two being a single from the first record and familiar to the masses in this tiny room. Full of sing-a-longs and arms in the air, cushioned by ‘Toes’ a single in America which has been heard over here thanks to the internet and YouTube. An instant romp of a track, sounding similar to ‘Banner’ at the start, it has a feel of euphoria about it. It’s clear that touring is a natural forte for Lights as she certainly knows how to put on a show and leave a beying crowd wanting more.
We are treated to an encore tonight, opening it up is another single from the first record called ‘Second Go’. It is a track that I think should have been the only encore track, as it is played with so much gusto that you can see Lights and her band are putting everything into the performance. The final track of the encore gives the impression that it was more spontaneous and maybe a ‘reward’ to tonight’s crowd for being so accommodating. ‘Cactus In The Valley’ again from the forthcoming album, is given an acoustic performance. The room again falls silent as Lights’ vocals really shine out. It may have been planned in the break of the encore (N.B – The actual stage setlist said ‘TBC’ confirming the addition of ‘Second Go’ and then ‘Cactus…’) but it slotted in with the rest of the set by being slick, polished and sounded great. As the final note is strung out, the room literally goes wild. Hands in the air, continuous clapping and a handful of whistling serenade Lights as she smiles broadly and bids us ‘Goodnight’ and ‘Farewell’.
I think it is fairly safe to assume that this girl will be getting a bit bigger this year. She certainly has the songs to break onto the Radio scene over here, her personality seems to shine through and not be an act. I believe if the likes of the track ‘Siberia’ and ‘Banner’ get picked up by Radio 1 then you won’t be seeing her in a venue of this size again. Lights is certainly one to keep an eye out for in the future.