Anyone who has had the slightest taste of Lake Street Dive’s music, even if it is just a few seconds of their famous cover of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” (1969), would probably acknowledge that the group has talent. And, indeed, the decade-old band, which originated in Boston, has certainly climbed their way up the music scene, booking spots this past year with stints on the likes of “Late Show with David Letterman” (1993-present) and “The Colbert Report” (2005-present). Known for their indie jazz sound, skilled upright bassist, gratuitous trumpet solos and, finally, for lead singer Rachel Price’s powerfully smooth and miraculously controlled voice, the band’s recent media attention is certainly merited.
Yet, no amount of prior awareness of the group’s talents could have prepared any audience member standing on the floor of the swanky Royale Boston nightclub for the performance Lake Street Drive delivered last Sunday. After hearing the solid, but fairly unoriginal opening act from Ages and Ages, there was a palpable hunger for Lake Street Drive’s unique sound in the crowd. Although it took a while for their performance to begin, this long wait was forgotten as soon as the group began to play. The band members swarmed the stage, exhibiting a sense of charm that has been lost among many of today’s indie acts. Opening with “Stop Your Crying,” a tune off the newly released album “Bad Self Portraits,” Price’s flirtatious demeanor and passionate swaying complemented her strong, booming voice.
This energy was not short-lived. For the remainder of their set, Lake Street Dive’s performance was inexplicably captivating and incredibly infectious. The crowd – considerably older than might have been expected – was no less enthusiastic, cheering and hollering non-stop. Everyone, from middle-aged mothers to groups of thirty-something men, was swaying, clapping and screaming. It didn’t really matter that the pieces did not posses a sing-along quality; people were still fascinated by the music and the vocals, both of which were flawless.
While Price’s singing was a highlight, the rest of the band got a chance to shine too. Bridget Kearney on the stand-up bass was truly impressive, and watching her dexterous fingers maneuver the strings of an instrument much larger than her small frame was a treat. The fantastic Mike Olson’s trumpet solos garnered a particularly emotional response from concertgoers, and drummer Mike Calabrese delivered an effortless performance, even showcasing his vocals on the catchy “Seventeen,” another track off “Bad Self Portraits.”
As the show progressed, Price engaged more and more with the crowd, revealing comedic details about her struggles in love, life and with her upstairs neighbor, fellow band member, Olson. This was followed by a low-key performance of 2010’s “The Neighbor Song,” which featured Price slowly belting the line, “I don’t mind my neighbors making love upstairs / Cause I was once a lover making all my neighbors scared.”
Throughout the concert, Price revealed how each band member contributed to the songwriting effort on the recent album and, indeed, the bond between band members was abundantly clear on stage. The strong connection between the four musicians, solidified since their third studio album, 2012’s “Fun Machine,” manifested itself in their flawless harmonies.
The band exited the stage after concluding a nearly 20-song set list with the famous, “You Go Down Smooth.” The departure was merely a tease, however, and Lake Street Drive returned a few minutes later for a two-song encore, formally ending the evening with a cover of Hall and Oate’s “Rich Girl.”
As the Royale emptied out and hoards of people swarmed the coat check, almost every fan was wearing a satisfied smile on his or her face. For those in the crowd, it was easy to see that Lake Street Dive will be going places in the near future, and it felt good to have been with them – even if only for two hours – on their inevitable rise to well-deserved recognition.