Boston formed, but named after our own ‘divey’ street, Lake Street Dive opened up their two-show stand in Saint Paul last night. As Rachael Price shared, we could have all gone to see J-Lo. Instead we packed into the venue for an expressive night of music and a even a slow dance competition.
Opening up the evening with a matching shirt, supporting band was Nicole Atkins. Playing mostly songs from her 2017 release Goodnight Rhonda Lee (in my opinion one of the best albums from that year), Nicole strode onstage and delivered a solid opening set. Three songs in she picked up a guitar and played her Chris Isaac co-written track “Goodnight Rhonda Lee”. This song is a prime example of her new newest album. The songs are written to showcase what sets her apart: rich, classic, retro-sounding vocals. Think Dusty Springfield meets soulful Leon Bridges.
Just over halfway through her set, the crowd settled in and really took notice of her voice. Playing “Maybe Tonight”, Nicole grabbed control. The drums chugged along, the guitar growled, and her vocals soared across the venue. Following with “Girl You Look Amazing”, it was the perfect transition to make the crowd groove. Engaging the audience with hip sways and smiles, she built upon that connection and quickly moved into “Listen Up.” It received the loudest cheer and perfectly showcased her vibe. Those three songs in a row, spread across three different albums, and ending with her newest track, brought us all along for her evolving style in music.
She ended the set with a slower song. After sharing that she’s brought couples together with two weddings under her belt, “A Little Crazy” ended her 9 song set. Extending a slow dance competition to the audience the house lights came up. The Palace became a swaying mob of love and spinning. Nicole stood over the crowd and gave her best vocal performance of the evening, the ending of that song pushing her into a raw, growling, yearning bundle of voice. With a couple selected as best slow dancers, Nicole walked off the stage also a winner by gaining some new fans.
“Neighbor Song” opened up the evening for Lake Street Dive. Slowly, each member came onstage to build into the song. Each member receiving applause, with Rachael Price carrying the finale burst of clapping. “You Are Free” came next and we immediately got a taste of what sets Lake Street Dive apart. Soulful lead vocal, a catchy hook, confident harmonies, and plenty of unique transitions make up the core of the band. It’s a formula that stands out and is refreshing to hear in today’s cookie-cutter pop templates.
Throughout the evening we received reminders of the strength of musicianship onstage. Lead singer, and heart of the band, Rachael Price can evoke emotion and power. “What I’m Doing Here” and hit single “Good Kisser” are strong examples of this. Bridget Kearney gave us complex and stunning bass parts in “Red Light Kisses” and “Call Off Your Dogs”. Both songs are foundations of why we attend live music: to see and hear something beyond the recorded track.
Hometown Mike Olsen imparted blazing trumpet parts throughout the evening as well. “Darryl” (named after one man in the audience) endlessly demonstrated his talent. Mike Calabrese on drums can solidify the groove easily, as in “Seventeen” or “You Go Down Smooth”. Their newest addition, Akie Bermiss, adds silky smooth vocals and rich keys. The keyboard parts on “Baby Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts” just completes that song.
It was Akie who kicked off a string of covers. His vocals on “You’re Still The One” (Shania Twain) provided a calm break in dancing and had everyone singing along. “Strangers” (The Kinks) gathered the group around a single microphone. Then “When You Were Mine” (Prince) pulled out an extremely long encore of applause. It had the band beaming with pride. Finally “I’m Just Another Soldier” (The Staple Singers) rounded out a the quad-set of covers. That string of songs demonstrated the ability for Lake Street Dive to blend together influential messages and artists, while spinning it into their own tribute. Beautifully executed and engaging, this was the nucleus to the 19 song set.
Nicole Atkins joked that she didn’t need to hit the gym on this tour because Lake Street Dive’s set provided plenty of dancing and movement. Cheering and laughing, I didn’t think much about that comment until midway through their music. The formation of a set-list and time between songs is something we don’t often think about. But within the long list of songs was a pace specifically designed to engage and keep us entertained. No long tuning breaks, no long conversations, just a blast of talent and a band giving us what they love to do, perform. That intention and implementation is a testament in the band and why crowds connect as easily as they do.
Lake Street Dive is full of loud parts and sharp expressions. All perfectly pieced together, their music makes the audience cheer, dance, and shout along. Somehow, all the edge pieces mold together into a smooth bundle of goodness. And going to see live music should be a heightened experience, one that pulls out the joy you have in music. Having witnessed the past two tours of LSD, the experience leaves you energized and happy. An impeccable reminder of the reason why we went to see them over J-Lo.
SETLIST for Night One:
- Neighbor Song
- You Are Free
- Rabid Animal
- Red Light Kisses
- Rental Love
- Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts
- Hang On
- You’re Still The One (cover)
- Strangers (cover)
- When You Were Mine (cover)
- I’m Just Another Soldier (cover)
- Just Ask
- Call Off Your Dogs
- You Go Down Smooth
- Good Kisser
- (encore) What I’m Doing Here
- (encore) Bad Self Portraits