We’re currently living through a chill-rock renaissance. That genre title may sound a bit quaint and a bit overblown, but it perfectly encapsulates just where modern rock music is headed. Think of artists like Omar Apollo, Dominic Fike or even Remi Wolf. They use traditional rock tropes but slow them down to create a more calming, smooth vibe. Add in some R&B influences, you’ve got yourself a new genre. And nobody is leading the chill-rock charge like Steve Lacy.
Known by many for his TikTok hit “Bad Habit,” Steve Lacy has been working at it for years. Lacy released his first major project “Steve Lacy’s Demo” (2017) five years ago, which featured a mere six songs almost entirely produced on his iPhone. Among the project’s output, though, was his breakthrough hit “Dark Red.” This catapulted him to future success, eventually releasing two studio albums, “Apollo XXI” (2019) and the recent “Gemini Rights” (2022). By now, Lacy has racked up a three-week stint at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and a world tour with ticket demand through the roof. Lacy’s “Give You the World Tour” recently mosied its way all the way down to Boston.
Lacy and his band set up shop at Boston’s Roadrunner, performing for thousands of screaming fans. The crowd knew Lacy’s music intimately, belting out just about every lyric from his opening song “Buttons” (2022) to the encore. That fan devotion is unmatched, with Lacy seeming to toy with it as he spouted off about the Toronto crowd being louder. He knew the crowd was in the palm of his hand and had a grand time throwing us around.
First and foremost, Steve Lacy is a showman. Outfitted with oversized glasses and a blown-up construction of the album logo behind him, Lacy made his concert a visual feast. With bright flashing lights and multicolored strobes, the show itself demanded your attention. That’s not to say that it abandoned the theme of the music though. For Lacy’s more slowed-down, heartfelt songs, those theatrics came to a halt. The lasers only came out when it was time to rave.
A mid-show highlight, Lacy crooned away his hit “N Side” (2019) as fans screamed the iconic words over him. This is the somewhat hilarious tradeoff of a chill-rock general admission concert, with audience members going wild over interior, jazzy guitar trills. But that’s the fun of it all, taking part in this ceremony of sorts with thousands around you. As everyone screamed out “Inside, inside, tell me, is it inside?” that ritual of the crowd was oh-so apparent. Steve Lacy was merely the leader; his music: the catalyst. Yelling at the top of your lungs, singing out to strangers next to you — that’s the product.
While Steve Lacy may have been chilling out on stage, some fans did not seem to take note. Roadrunner provides an invariably rocky concert-viewing experience being the largest indoor general-admission venue in New England. There are no sections or alternate seating; if you can see, hurrah, and if you can’t, boohoo. Specific to Lacy’s show, though, was the number of crowd disruptions. There seemed to be over 10 individuals fainted throughout the concert, and Lacy had to stop every other song to call in security. Plus, whenever one of Lacy’s bigger songs would begin, a barricade of phones would appear. Lacy himself called this out, saying that he missed those olden days where we didn’t feel like we needed to film everything. Call it sappy, but it’s better to see the show and not have it constantly stopping and starting.
Nonetheless, once you looked past the disruptions and allowed yourself to fall into the groove, Lacy tore down the house. Closing out the show was a two-song encore, featuring Lacy’s “C U Girl” (2015) and (after much anticipation) “Dark Red.” This is where Lacy’s showmanship reached its peak, prodding his audience along as he lamented that they didn’t want it enough. After screams grew and grew, Lacy would play a bit more of his final hit before shutting it down again. Fans grew frenzied and crazed over their love of the Lacy classic. And finally, when the shoe dropped and the true song began, it was utterly cathartic. It was the pièce de résistance, the moment that made the whole concert worth it. That was when we all gave ourselves up to the music.
Ultimately, it’s Steve Lacy’s infectious personality that makes the concert experience. After listening to some of Lacy’s music, you may wonder how it would translate to a mass scale. With slow jazz and R&B undertones, the link can be a bit dysphoric. But rest assured, Steve Lacy was made for the stage. The music takes on new life and new meaning when it’s performed live. You must be there in the crowd, experiencing it in live time, to truly understand Lacy’s craft.