As I enter into “concert hibernation” mode in these remaining weeks of 2013, I am thrilled to end off a year full of wonderful concerts — Alt-J, Alabama Shakes and Gary Clark Jr. — with Lissie.
The California-based singer/song-writer/guitarist, celebrated her birthday, while simultaneously kicking off her North American tour, at Toronto’s Adelaide Hall on November 21st. If one had to spend their birthday with strangers, this was the crowd to do it with. Toronto was her only Canadian stop and fans were excited (and loud) as they welcomed her back.
“Teach Me How to Dougie,” blared over the speakers as the blond rocker expertly dougied her way out onto the stage with her band. A fan jumped the staged, pulling Lissie in for a hug, mid-dougie, which she happily accepted. Just as quickly, the crowd broke into an impromptu “Happy Birthday, Lissie,” leaving her noticeably moved. (Later, her tour manager and band surprised her with a birthday cake and balloons).
The 80-minute set began with “Bully” from her 2010 full-length debut, Catching a Tiger, Lissie also delved into favourites like, “Record Collector” from her 2009 EP, Why You Runnin,’ before shifting into new material — “Sleepwalking” — from her sophomore album, Back to Forever. And while fans reacted excitedly to “When I’m Alone,” new tracks such as “The Habit,” and “They All Want You” are already becoming fan favourites. When she tenderly sang, “ You said I was different; stood in a class of my own,” fans cheered in agreement.
Note: Beside me an argument occurred when a chatty group was ambushed by an indignant pair. The friends squeezed in front of the chatters, obstructing their view and forcing them further to the back. Both sides were up in arms, with the indignant fans quickly silencing the chatters by stating: “This is Lissie! You’re not appreciating the artist. That’s nuts. We’re here to hear her. Not you.” After a few moments of defiant chatting, the talkers quieted down. (Thank goodness).
What makes Lissie, the artist, and Lissie, the performer, so dynamic is that she delivers the unexpected. Her natural charisma paired with raw fiery rock, distinctly powerful vocals, insightful song writing and surprising covers (Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit Of Happiness” & Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” neither performed at this show), have garnered passionate fans.
She is not yet as famous as her tremendous talent warrants — which blows my mind – but famous enough to now incite both awe and possessiveness from her fans. Boys gushed, calling her “beautiful” and her music “the real shit!” Girls looked on adoringly while singing, “Does anyone love anyone anymore?” from “Further Away (Romance Police)”. She took it all in stride between songs, accepting feathers, a butterfly pin, drinks and sharp high pitched screams of “I love you” and “You’re perfect. I want you.” with sincere, almost shy, humility.
Towards the end of the show the scathing track “Shameless” was dedicated to Toronto’s now infamous Mayor, Rob Ford, drawing whistles, laughter and cheers. “You guys are just usually so much more together than we are. It kind of makes us feel good,” she explained. “He’s shameless and he’ll probably get really rewarded for it. That’s what the song is about.”
Her tale about her first Toronto experience via a Canadian named “Frankie,” who she met at a G. Love & Special Sauce concert as a teenager in Chicago, had the crowd chuckling and a few threatening to kill poor Frankie. As she began “In Sleep,” she playfully acknowledged the inevitable (now seemingly mandatory) encore that few artists ever recognize with such honest humour. “Alright so this is our last song,” she said with a grin, while making air quotes. “It’s our pretend last song.”
The concert ended with “Oh Mississippi” and Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” — “You’re a good boy and you know it” — a compelling cover that takes on a restlessly seductive quality in Lissie’s raspy rock goddess hands.
Lissie and her band have a good thing happening and it’s getting even better. She continues to go her own way musically (another great Fleetwood Mac cover by Lissie), and hopefully her music continues to draw bigger and wider acclaim, as it most certainly deserves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chaka V. is a writer, journalist and the creator of The Winehouse Mag.