Live Review: Lights

King Tut’s – 27/01

Since the last time Lights (born Valerie Anne Poxleitner) played in Glasgow, she has started a family and fought off a tough bout of writer’s block. Each successful release act as a snapshot of certain points in her life, with the hopeful sounds and melancholic lyrics of her debut being replaced by words of hope and grittier synths on 2011’s Siberia. Last year’s Little Machines (or, Wee Machines as she calls it in Glasgow) could be her best yet, striking the right balance of all moods and emotions across its eleven tracks.

Nine of those eleven get an airing tonight, showing how much Lights believes in her new material. Hook-laden ‘Up We Go’ will be a setlist staple for years, and ‘Running With the Boys’ has some of the best melodies penned thus far in the Canadian’s career. The real treats are the songs which truly come to life in the live environment – ‘Portal’, a delicate opener on record, becomes a post-rock crescendo, slowly picking up a momentum of fragility and beauty. It’s a standout track on a strong record, but given the chance to fully breathe, it becomes a show stopper in the middle of a consistently strong set.

Lights has a real command of restraint vocally. Songs like the excellent ‘Toes’ are straight-forward pop tunes without many belting moments, and so when they come, they really hit you. The vocal highs of Siberia’s ‘Flux and Flow’ shine as she sinks into a powerful refrain; ‘The Last Thing On Your Mind’ has a final chorus which has yet to be matched in emotional vulnerability, and those high notes make the desperation for everything to be okay sound all that more relatable.

A stripped down ‘Don’t Go Home Without Me’ sums up Lights at her best. She can do dubstep wobbles, toe-tapping pop anthems, and find a way to make rap fit into all this, but at her core, she’s a songwriter who can adapt her art to any genre. On record, ‘Don’t Go Home Without Me’ is a pulsing closer, while live it is a piano-led acoustic crowd-silencer (to the point where a few people shooshed others over at the bar). Again, her vocals take centre stage, and when she sings “You know that I’ll be hanging around every mighty mile, and when you call me I’ll be right down” it could be to her husband, to her child, or to everyone in the crowd.

[Scott Wilson – @HeartofFire]

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