The move of Saturday night’s concert by Lake Street Dive from the Port City Music Hall to the larger-capacity State Theatre was perhaps an inevitable consequence of the long-touring foursome’s rather sudden rise to the status of “the year’s best new band,” as proclaimed by Rolling Stone magazine.
It might have been cool to experience this indie band’s mix of pop, soul, jazz and rock in the relatively intimate space at Port City. Not only its name but its approach to music harkens back to earlier eras in music, when bands regularly emerged out of small clubs and street corner jams to make their mark.
Of course, the members of LSD, as the band is sometimes called, are actually New England Conservatory-trained musicians. No surprise then that subtle technique blended with let-it-all-out soulfulness to make Saturday’s sold-out show at the venerable State one to remember.
At the front of the group is Tennessean Rachael Price, who remarked early on that the crowd at the State was the band’s biggest audience to date. It took full advantage of the opportunity with a performance that had the multigenerational crowd in a high state of excitement throughout the nearly two-hour set.
Price is as powerful a singer as has come along in quite a while. With a jazz background and vocal gift that allows her to elaborate impressively on melodies without losing touch with their core feeling, she locates the sweet spots in most tunes and puts just about everything into delivering the goods.
“Seventeen” was one of many highlights where she revved up to a chorus of plaintive emotion. “Rental Love” and “Use Me Up” were two more.
“Bad Self Portraits” had her singing about being a “lonely woman” with the other band members harmonizing a perfect pop chorus.
Though Price is a standout, each of the other LSD players added substantially to the over-all sound.
Upright bassist Bridget Kearney, who composes a good deal of the band’s repertoire, offered several solos that matched lightning speed with a rich bass sound. Mike Calabrese was a precise drummer who knew when to punch up the music and when to back it off a little. Mike Olson was impressive on guitar and, especially, trumpet, where he showed a jazzy feel for keeping a solo in the moment.
Sam Kassirer, the group’s recording producer, joined in on keyboards on a few tunes, notably with some organ sounds on “Better Than” and general backing on the take-no-prisoners “You Go Down Smooth,” which turned the old theater into an all-out dance hall for a while.
A sing-along version of Hall & Oates’ “Rich Girl” ended the evening as the clock approached midnight.
Portland, Oregon-based sextet Ages & Ages opened the show with some pop-folk featuring lively harmonies that they also shared with LSD, each band appearing at one point in the other’s set.
Wow, good show!
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.