Finally Makes It to Portland!
Article By: Sean Moore/ Photos By: Kelsey Riordan
Do you ever feel like you are walking in on someone’s best kept secret?
That’s what seeing Lissie at Port City felt like.
Allow me to explain. Sure, Lissie is a rather well known artist in the music industry, having put out 4 full length albums and a couple of “Covers” EPs, as well as having music featured in films and television shows, most notably/recently on the return of “Twin Peaks” (on which she performed her hauntingly beautiful song “Wild West”), since emerging on the scene in 2008. This was her first time playing in (Portland) Maine, which she admitted was supposed to happen sooner (re: 2016) but she was finishing her latest album. She took the stage last night and performed a variety of her songs sans a band, with only an acoustic guitar and her beautiful voice for the intimate concert.
Upon walking up to the front of the venue, I saw an empty stage, literally. There was simply a microphone stand and I immediately felt like the crowd was going to be serenaded like it was a living room or coffee shop, something perhaps you walk into, only to realize you are witnessing something very special. Solo, acoustic performances like Lissie’s last night are incredible because it is like the musician is allowing the audience into their circle of friends. Lissie was humble and very appreciative of the audience that showed up for her last night, speaking directly to a few fans in the front row (a couple of times) who were swaying and singing along to each song. The audience could not have been more respectful, either. The entire night, you could’ve heard a pin drop, as everyone was focused on Lissie’s soaring, singular voice as she played songs including “Hero,” “They All Want You,” “When I’m Alone,” “Oh Mississippi,” and “Shameless” (during which Lissie asked the audience to sing along and the crowd timidly agreed, perhaps because they were still getting comfortable with the intimacy of the setting). I observed the crowd slowly come out of its collective shell and participate, which took about 5 or 6 songs as Lissie encouraged everyone with banter in between every few songs. She told everyone about her journey from Montreal to Portland which included getting towed, having a car window broken, and an iPad stolen!
Aside from the old favorites, Lissie sprinkled in stripped down versions of songs from her album “Castles” (which came out almost one year ago and is reminiscent of other dream-pop artists like Ellie Goulding or even Birdy) like when she played “Blood and Muscle” (which she said was one of her favorite songs from the album). Personally, I loved hearing the acoustic versions of Lissie’s newest songs, because that is usually how the song is born- with just a guitar/chords and voice- before they are produced into a dream pop sound found on the album. This acoustic set really showcased Lissie’s voice and put it front-and-center for each song. Listening to her soaring voice live also brought to mind another incredible singer/songwriter, Brandi Carlile. Lissie’s vocal range really demands your attention at various points during her songs, as it builds from a soothing, haunting whisper to a near call-to-arms rally cry (of hope, usually), especially with a few added boot stomps to keep time. Those were the moments throughout the night that really got the crowd into it.
Lissie also made a point to acknowledge that she has a plethora of covers under her belt and she offered up her interpretations of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” to a very delighted, energized crowd during what would have been considered her “encore” as well as Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way,” which reminds you of Stevie Nicks’ vocals, but certainly has its own folk-pop flair courtesy of Lissie. You could not have asked for a more personable musician, as she even agreed to hang around after the show to meet and talk with people; and to me, that’s what this brief stint of solo, acoustic shows are designed for- a chance for Lissie to connect with her fans, and I could see a crowd full of elated people by night’s end.
It’s always wonderful to see a local artist capture an opening slot for shows like this, and mid-coast Maine native Lauren Crosby was given that honor. Her folk/bluesy voice is both unique but also resembles early Jewel, especially with songs like “The Inconvenience” and “In a Little House.” Lauren’s singing really captures the rawness of her personal songs, which is another easy comparison to Jewel’s early songwriting, as well as other folk artists who can transform their poetry into well-crafted songs. I found myself imagining a long drive and/or walk somewhere along the coast during the summer with Crosby’s songs playing as the soundtrack to the introspective journey where the listener could get lost in thought and appreciation for Maine’s gorgeous nature. You can almost taste the salt water in some of her songs; but you also feel the isolation of small-town, northern/mid-coast living in the lyrics of her beautifully crafted songs. One of my favorite songs was “Why Are You So Blue” which she explained was a poem, birthed out of conversations with her sister. Lauren described a time on stage in the past where someone in the crowd yelled out “Smile!” as her nerves had gotten the best of her, and I found that interesting because the first thing I noticed about Lauren’s stage presence was her beaming smile and obvious happiness (to be performing on stage for an appreciative, “hometown” crowd). She clearly took that previous constructive criticism and ran with it, because her smile did not disappear the entire 45 minute set.