[Originally published 1/16/2011]
Where: The Music Box
It was her biggest headlining show yet in Los Angeles, and it was clear Lissie was very excited about it. "For the longest time I knew every person that came to my show, now there are all these new faces!" The question was, would Lissie's voice be as dominating in the larger theater. Within the first few minutes of the set, any doubts that she wasn't up to the task were put to rest. Lissie has a voice that could easily fill stadiums.
Illuminated by cobalt blue lights Lissie took the stage around 10:30pm with her accompanying band looking like phantoms in the mists. The crowd greeted her as if she was a long lost family member that had finally found her way home.
Beaming at the crowd, Lissie opened the set with her cover of Hank William's haunting "Wedding Bells." Her clear, sharp voice cut through the crowd and instantly quashed any side conversations. Like iron filings on a magnet everyone was instantly focused on the blond lady in the loose t-shirt and jeans whose voice had captured them. No side dancers or sequins or elaborate hats or other bells and whistles required at a Lissie show.
Her band were no slouches either. Stuart Wilkinson and Lewis Keller build solid rhythms, while lead guitarist Eric Sullivan's solos competed for attention with Lissie's vocals. Clearly in love with her band mates, Lissie made sure to introduce them over and over to the crowd, making sure everyone knew their names. She also made sure that her rhythm guitar was up to scratch, tuning before each song started. If you're going to tune that much, then you better acquire some stage banter, which Lissie passed with flying colors. Stories about growing up in Rock Island, IL, her love of tequila, her first job in LA working at Urban Outfitters on Melrose, and riding elephants kept the crowd going while she prepared.
It's been a big year for Lissie. Since her debut album on Fat Possum came out in August, it's been a nonstop whirlwind of touring. After years of playing around Los Angeles building a collection of starkly beautiful songs, she's finally getting her due. While her EP Why You Runnin' released in 2009 got her noticed and garnered glowing reviews, the new album Catching a Tiger was not as well received.
Why? Mostly because of the age old wisdom that sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen. Too many co-writers with ideas about what a Lissie record should sound like, watering down her unique voice. The result of which were a number of songs that sounded very much like Michelle Branch or Sara Bareilles.
However, what the critics think is one thing. The real test was watching it performed live. Was the crowd here tonight to see the first single "Little Lovin" or the newer "Cuckoo" or where they perhaps only here to see her sing a cover of Kid Cudi's "Pursuit of Happiness"? The answer was they loved it all. Whether it was new, old, or a cover the audience was behind her one hundred percent.