Photo by Cortney Armitage
Anticipation crackled on the corner of Wilshire and Western. Nearly 18 months since Lake Street Dive last played Los Angeles, finally the quartet had returned to the wonderful, sold-out Wiltern. The nerves from the past- that 2014 date being the band’s biggest show ever- were history. Led by its ever-ebullient, multicolored chanteuse Rachel Price, the foursome was back following the recent release of the band’s newest album, Side Pony, brimming with confidence and gratitude.
Fuzzy tremolo rippled off Mike Olson’s guitar on starter “Godawful Things,” one of a trio of Pony cuts that came early, including a title track full of sharp turns and lilting la-la-las. There was a distinctly heavier tone coursing through the new numbers, given to tempo shifts that indulged moments of gospel and cut-time rave-ups out of starkly drawn blues. As “Stop Your Crying,” unleashed its heavenly high harmonies, the four took in an exuberant reaction from the Wiltern faithful, then slipped into Bridget Kearney’s punchy bass intro on “Clear A Space.”
A breath-catching “Better Than,” with its staggering beat and solemn trumpet, rolled into the rock of “Spectacular Failure,” then the stop-start “Saving All My Sinning.” Price, with one of the finest voices in music, was as sultry as she was silly. She appeared downright chatty before swimming in the back-to-the-beach, ‘60s vibe of “Hell Yeah” and the big spaces of “Close To Me.” A nod to Annie Lennox, on “Walking On Broken Glass,” marked a halfway point before Kearney and drummer Mike Calabrese rumbled most spectacularly on the jet-pack punky “Elijah.”
Another three-play, these from 2014’s Bad Self Portraits, started with the bop-and-swaying “You Go Down Smooth,” to the always-welcome title cut, then a clap-along, sing-along of “Seventeen.” A last “Call Off Your Dogs” came before an encore gathered the group around a single-mic on the soul-reflective “What I’m Doing Here,” with the dam-busting crush of Hall and Oates’ “Rich Girl” sending everyone home happy.
It’s probably a good sign when Price makes flatulence jokes, or that Calabrese still sports a headband. Things haven’t gotten too serious. In her explanation as to the meaning behind the new record’s title, Price referred to Kearney’s hairstyle, and the accompanying pride of doing your own thing. Lake Street Dive is doing it.
The Wiltern show in the late-summer of 2014 followed strong reviews, gushing word-of-mouth, and a terrific album; a powerful tailwind fueling a show that was both peak and brand new starting point. Lake Street Dive has taken that next step with a self-assured statement of purpose- bestowing fresh and developing material to its hungry legion- that was as quirky and charismatic as when the expectations weren’t quite as high. After this, those expectations only got higher.