The second show of my weekend concert extravaganza was quite different than the first. Instead of the sold out large-theater setting of the House of Blues for the Decemberists, I was a mile or so up Comm. Ave. at the more intimate and comfortably crowded Paradise Rock Club, where a heavily college-age crowd eagerly anticipated the singer-songwriter known only as Lissie.
If you haven’t heard of her, you probably will soon. If you know her already, either you were there at the show or you at least thought about going. I first heard about her early last year from a work colleague who is always ahead of the curve on these things. Once I listened to her “Why You Runnin’” EP, she quickly became one of my “6 Artists to Watch” (in the March issue of Modern Acoustic; click HERE to read the issue).
For those who haven’t heard of her, Lissie’s sort of a hippie chick in the sense that she doesn’t wear any makeup, doesn’t shave her armpits or legs (her own admission on stage!), and doles out advice about living in the moment and “not letting shit bother you” (also her quote).
As stated, the crowd at the Paradise was mostly college-age kids and heavily female in gender, who exuberently screamed out “WE LOVE YOU” and “YOU’RE SO HOT” with regularity. And the singer, in turn, spread The Word of Lissie, happily doling out advice (Lissie’s in her late 20s, so she’s got a lifetime of wisdom to impart): “Don’t get STDs,” “Don’t get pregnant, unless you want to,” and the best one, “Don’t get drunk and end up in the back seat of some dude’s car. Make sure you get yourself home… and then you can hurl.”) She said this all in a very loving way. She really cares.
Now on to the show… On record, Lissie sports a soulful voice, singing material that ranges from country to bluesy, and the songs themselves tend to live in that same country, gospel range. In concert, she becomes a powerhouse. The music is amped up with a more danceable beat behind her. You might think Lissie would get lost in all that, but you really haven’t heard the best of her until you see her live. That soulful voice booms. It rises and falls easily with the music. She uses her arms, specifically her guitar-strumming hand as an exclamation point to her lyrics. Her head sways back, forth, left and right with feeling, her long, blond hair ending up covering her face, until she gently brushes it away in the quiet of a moment.
She opened with a cover, “Wedding Bells,” by Hank Williams, and ended with another, the Kid Cudi tune “Pursuit of Happiness,” which is a staple of her shows and had the crowd in full frenzy.
In between, while I don’t have complete setlist at this time, she played a number of the tunes from her two recordings. “Little Lovin’,” the bluesy “Oh Mississippi” (which she called an “ode to death”!), and “Everywhere I Go” from “Why You Runnin'” were superb. “When I’m Alone,” “Bully,” and “In Sleep,” from “Catching a Tiger,” could all make pop radio if they were given the dance beat they were given in concert.
To me, Lissie has potential to be whatever she wants. Would she put up with being polished and primped up to make it as a pop artist? Is she happy being a soulful singer-songwriter outside the mainstream? We’ll have to wait to see where she goes from here.
To view my pics from the show, click HERE
Lissie doing Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” (not from Paradise show)