Lucius Dances Us Through Every High And Low Lucius, One of Music’s Most Sought Collaborators, Shines At The Belasco With a mesmerizing performance
LOS ANGELES, CA- If you didn’t bring your own disco ball, Lucius had you covered. The indie pop outfit brought the tour for its latest album, Second Nature, to the Belasco in Los Angeles on Friday evening with a shimmering, danceable show as memorable and cathartic as the two lead voices at the center of it all.
If the name Lucius rings a bell, you’ve probably come to know the vocals of the band’s singers, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, through collaborations. When Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was looking for singers to join him for a surprise set at the Newport Folk Festival in 2015, Lucius was it. He soon asked them to tour with him.
And Lucius was it for Harry Styles, Mavis Staples, Brandi Carlile, The Killers, John Prine, Ozzy Osbourne, Sheryl Crow, Lukas Nelson, John Legend, Elton John and others, too. Laessig and Wolfe have been some of the most in-demand background vocalists of recent years, and for good reason.
The duo’s vocal kinship elevates a song anywhere it appears. On Carlile’s “You and Me on the Rock” — nominated for Record of the Year and two other Grammys — their luscious harmonies are the secret ingredient in a song already led by a remarkable singer. On Harry Styles’ “Treat People with Kindness,” Wolfe and Laessig are the first voices you hear, and Styles leaves the chorus to them. It’s a track that showcases two striking vocalists who both sing lead but also mesh seamlessly, like one voice double-tracked. It’s something to behold.
It’s fortunate, then, that Lucius is a dynamic project on its own, with three acclaimed full-length albums brimming with melodic hooks and charisma. They’re rounded out on stage by Peter Lalish and Alex Pfender on guitar and keys, Danny Molad on drums and Solomon Dorsey on bass.
Partly because of the collaborative streak, it’s been six years since their last album, Good Grief, and Second Nature is similarly magnetic but stylistically different — a disco-inspired album produced by the not-disco Carlile and Dave Cobb, who is known for producing some of Americana’s finest. It works. (In fact, the duo told Anthony Mason that the disco was Cobb’s idea, while Carlile pushed them as vocalists.)
When they took the stage at the Belasco, Laessig and Wolf emerged from fog, illuminated through the haze by magenta and blue lights. They sang the opening notes of title track “Second Nature” back-to-back in front of a backdrop that mirrored the album cover, which was a nice creative touch. That attention to detail runs through the entire show.
During their visit to NPR’s Tiny Desk in 2013, Bob Boilen wrote that “though I expected fun, we also got fabulous,” and that’s still true. The visuals of a Lucius show are as vibrant and confident as the music itself. Wolfe and Laessig coordinate their impeccably styled outfits, down to matching hairstyles and striking eye makeup, complete with rhinestones on their eyelids. Clad in flowing black dresses with fringe that’s ideal for dancing, their boots shimmer and their keytars are decked out with mirror tiles like a disco ball.
After the one-two punch of new tracks “Second Nature” and “Next to Normal,” they took it back to their 2014 album Wildewoman with “Tempest.” The set that followed gave the audience other highlights from their back catalog — I was thrilled to hear the soaring sincerity of “How Loud Your Heart Gets,” easily one of my favorite Lucius songs for its hopeful resolve and excellent build and release.
They didn’t gloss over heartbreak and longing, though, digging through the hurt with Second Nature’s “The Man I’ll Never Find” and “Promises,” as well as Good Grief’s “Dusty Trails,” their expressive vocals supplemented on the latter by pop artist Jake Wesley Rogers.
“I’ve been singing third harmony on this song for six years in my car, so I’m ready,” Rogers said from stage, rounding out the song beautifully.
Joy filled the room again when “LSD” (Love So Deep) gave way to a medley of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” Cher’s “Believe” and Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” fitting choices for what Second Nature is trying to communicate.
“It is a record that begs you not to sit in the difficult moments, but to dance through them,” Wolfe told Rolling Stone. Since their last album, her marriage ended, the world locked down and musicians, like so many people, faced uncertainty in their careers. “I think you can really hear and feel the spectrum of emotion and hopefully find the joy in the darkness. It does exist. That’s why we made Second Nature and why we wanted it to sound the way it did: our focus was on dancing our way through the darkness.”
One of the most special moments came after an outfit change into shimmering dresses that reflected light like a disco ball. They walked to the center of the crowd and asked everyone to sit down, allowing the light to beam off them and every person to be able to see them.
“It felt like we needed to be here, on the ground with you, face-to-face — really face-to-face,” Wolfe said as they launched into “Two of Us on the Run.” It was a lovely moment of connection, made even more compelling as they reached out and sang directly to the people surrounding them, “There’s no race, there’s only a runner, just keep one foot in front of the other.”
Back on stage, they closed by having “Turn It Around” segue into a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.” Flanked by the endearing Seaweed Sisters — a delightful dance trio that also opened the show after Jessica Lea Mayfield — it was a celebratory way to wrap the night. But they had one surprise left in store: their stripped-back, stunning cover of The Kinks’ “Strangers,” accompanied by Rogers again.
When they sit down to write the setlist for the night, it’s possible Lucius may want to end their set with something other than “Strangers,” but it’s hard to imagine anything more fitting. It’s a showcase for their voices, for their life-affirming friendship, and for the most perfect summation of not only Lucius, but how it feels for us to be in the room with them: We are not two; we are one.