LOS ANGELES, CA- Lights has been dropping electronic-pop gold since 2009. Her debut album, The Listening, earned her a Juno Award for New Artist of the Year and she continued to build upon that success with critical/commercial acclaim with her following albums Siberia, Little Machines, and Skin & Earth. The time fans had to wait between each of those albums was between 2-3 years. While she did release an instrumental album in 2020, it took over four and half years for her fifth studio album, PEP, to come to life.
Released earlier this month, PEP is Lights’ first album with her new label, Fueled by Ramen, and really feels like a musical rebirth for Lights. Based on my understanding, PEP is the first album that Lights produced herself. While the synth and electronic-pop sensibilities of her prior albums are definitely present on PEP, there is also that Fueled by Ramen sensibility; a more rock-leaning sonic with electric guitars being the clear beneficiary.
While the sonics on the album may have changed ever so slightly from her prior efforts, the underlying spirit of what has always drawn fans to Lights, her undeniable free spirit and sass, is still 100% present, even despite some of the heavy subject matter she sings about. There’s a lot of introspection in PEP, as evidenced by the line “Tell me it’s OK to not be alright” in the first track of the album (“Beside Myself”), but over the course of the 13 tracks, with the occasional assist from friends likes Josh Dun (“In My Head”), Kiesza (“Money In the Bag”) and Elohim (“Real Thing), we come out of the music journey reassured that Lights will never lose her grip and “never let [her] head down” (“Grip”).
Opening for Lights was the LA-based artist tiLLie. In her Instagram bio, she describes her music as nightmare pop. I’m not quite sure what nightmare pop is, but based on the sampling I got from her performance, maybe it’s a bit of an amalgam of post-punk, emo, and pop music. Whatever nightmare pop is, I quite enjoyed it.
I didn’t see a setlist for her, but from the video clips I took, and what I remember, she performed a couple of unreleased songs in addition to “Peachie”, “Mood Swings”, and “Save Yourself” and “Loud Mouth”. She also threw in a rocking cover of Britney Spears’s “Lucky”.
tiLLie’s set was quite fun. Her music, and performance, were high energy and she seemed to be thoroughly enjoying her time on stage. In fact, her reaction to the crowd’s receptiveness threw her off guard. She openly admitted that she was getting disillusioned with Los Angeles crowds, but that the energy she got during the performance really made her believe in Los Angeles again. There was definitely enough PEP in the room for tiLLie, and that really energized the performance.
As the house lights dimmed, I could feel the energy in the room intensify. Anxious fans were waiting with bated breath for their favorite Canadian artist to grace the stage. The tension was released when three words illuminated the LED screen upstage:
“Baby I’m back.”
The roar from the crowd was deafening. The music hadn’t even started yet, and I was ever so grateful for my earplugs. lol
Joining Lights on stage were The Summer Set’s drummer Jess Bowen and her longtime guitarist Brodie Tavares. This was my first time seeing Lights in concert, so I couldn’t really share in that communal moment of sense memory that the collective in the room was feeling. But as the performance started, and she took her spot center stage, and started performing, the energy in the room started to seep into my soul.
Though the album had been released less than a week before the concert, fans were singing along to each song from the first note played. Sure, there were plenty of fan favorites to sing along to interspersed through her set, but how could you have possibly learned almost every lyric to every new song in a matter of days?…. I should have secretly recorded the fans standing next to me in the audience, as they were my proof that this was in fact the case. lol.
If there had been a bit of a hiatus for Lights and her fans, you wouldn’t notice it here. Her fans, adorned in the red, blue, and yellow colors of the PEP artwork, seemed to be right at home, loving and living in, every moment.
There’s something about Lights as a person that makes her instantly relatable. Now, I don’t know her … I only know her music… but she kind of carries with her an “everywoman” kind of vibe. Perhaps it’s the relatability of her music that’s seeping into my perception of her, but when she talks, or sings, about love and being in the moment, it’s done in a way that is so earnest and human that I can’t help but nod my head in agreement. She’s like the kind friend that you want to have for words of reassurance.
And that personability really makes a person attending their first Lights concert really fall in love with her. Not only do you get to enjoy fantastic music (both old and new songs) but it really feels like your doing it in a room full of friends, enjoying the moment, and soaking in all the PEP
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