Show Review: Lights @ The Kool Haus

Lights

Illuminating the Kool Haus

Nov 26 2009

 
There are two questions on my mind when I enter the Kool Haus on this balmy Thursday evening in Toronto: how is a girl and her electro-indie-pop from Timmins, Ontario supposed to fill a fairly large venue like the Kool Haus?  Secondly, how well is her keyboard and synth-driven material going to translate on stage?  I mean, she’s known for recording her music with a keyboard in her bedroom, will she be able to engage a crowd?
 
First of all, I’m blown away by how full the place is.  I half expected a small crowd by the stage and a lot of open space.  I’m totally wrong.  And when the house lights dim, people go nuts!  Apparently while I wasn’t paying attention, Lights became the new Avril (with talent, without the attitude).  The crowd is largely comprised of young teenage girls, many of them sporting Lights’ signature elastic hairband straight across their foreheads, keeping their side-swept bangs in place.
 
Lights bounces onstage with a wave and dives right into the title track off her debut LP, The Listening, which was released in September.  Immediately, my doubts about her performance vanish.  She radiates energy and love of her art.  Somehow, she even manages to sing while grinning. “This is a song I wrote about my favourite video game” she chirps before launching into ‘Lions!’  Her second single, ‘February Air’, follows.  Everyone sings along to this one and Lights passes the mic, letting the crowd perform the chorus.  Both ‘February Air’ and her newest release, ‘Ice’ earn the most fan response.  Although these songs are on The Listening, they were both originally released on her debut EP Lights in 2008, which explains their substantial recognition.
 
There’s no doubt that this girl has serious talent.  Yes, she uses some effects on her vocals, but they probably hinder more than help, muffling her voice at times.  It’s clear that she is no Britney Spears.  She can also play not one, but three instruments –  keyboard, keytar (seriously) and guitar.  She’s supported by two guys, one on synth and one on drums.  Lights rotates between the instruments in three different stage positions, sometimes leaving everything behind to saunter across the stage and connect with fans in the front rows.
 
At two different points in the night, we’re treated to a motion comic called Audio Quest: A Captain Lights Adventure.  An attractive girl who likes video games and comics?!  Unheard of!  While somewhat juvenile and definitely ’80s-inspired, these videos are an innovative bridge the gaps between songs.  We only get to see a little piece of the story, which has Captain Lights fighting evil with music.  I assume the saga will continue at other shows, which is great marketing, as super fans will be incensed to follow her on tour.  For the rest, the videos will be released on MTV.com and Youtube.  So far, four of ten issues have been posted.
 
Calling Toronto her hometown, even though she only moved here four years ago, Lights is genuinely grateful for the love she feels in the room.  Her disarming humbleness makes you want to be her best friend.  “This is quickly becoming my favourite show ever!”, she gushes after a teenaged male fan jumps onstage and hugs her before being escorted off by security.
 
After a solid 13 song set, Lights is summoned onstage by the fans chanting her name (possibly the easiest artist name to chant).  She kicks off her encore with a great cover of Phil Collins’ ‘In the Air Tonight’.  As one of the older members of the audience, I assume I’ll be one of the few to recognize it.  Surprisingly though, many people know the chorus, at least.  She finishes the whole night off with a solo acoustic rendition of ‘February Air’.  Although it would be nice to see another song get played, this version is different enough to satisfy and ends the night on an intimate note.
 

(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- December 8, 2009)
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About J2

What happens when you're a wordsy music aficionado who works for NXNE, CMW, HPX, Olio Music Festival, The JUNOs and Polaris Music Prize? You spend all of your free time blogging about it... Follow on Twitter if you're so inclined: @HearPlugged

Posted on February 25, 2011, in Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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