Music Feature

Concert Review: Lissie at the Church

by Bill Chenevert
The country girls brings rootsy magic on a snowy night

Lissie and her two bandmates were able to capitalize on a little magic in the air last night at the Church. It was, by most standards, blizzarding out. The wind was brutal; umbrellas were helpful only if you were walking against the wind and you'd use it as a shield. Lissie'd missed her previous stop in Philly due to doctor's orders to rest her voice. She had to cancel six dates in October. An R5 email in the morning addressed the snow issue only to say that it wouldn't be one. And sure enough, right on time, Lissie took the stage with a guitar player and a bassist who managed to play the drums, too. The place was pretty much full and came a few tickets short of a sell-out (but I'd guess a bunch of ticket-holders decided not to give it a go). The crowd was a mix of old people who listen to WXPN, hipsters in fabulous boho wintry finery, and devoted October-date fans who'd been waiting for four months so their favorite countrified folk vixen could mystify Philly with her feminine beauty and majesty.

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To date, Lissie's got a couple records to play with - an EP called Why You Runnin' (11/09 on Fat Possum), and her debut LP called Catching a Tiger, which she released this past June on Columbia. There are only five songs on the EP and two of them are missing on the LP, and she played em' both. She opened with one of them, "Wedding Bells." A song where she wails "Wedding bells will never ring for me." It's a slow, haunting number, and a potential sign that this set would be morose and frightening. Not the case. Next was "Worried About," a deeper track on the LP where she sings "Last four years of my life I've thought about you pretty much every 15 seconds." It's a bouncy, kooky song that plays to her vocal range. She can wail, and she can play with staccato paces and rhythms, singing "I'm too worried 'bout what you're doin' doin' doin' / No, you're not worried 'bout what I'm doin, too." After the first two songs she playfully chatted about the tour, saying it's nice to pick what song she wants to do and in what order. She doesn't have to play "just the hits," she joked, even though has a verifiable indie hit in "Little Lovin.'"

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Next were "When I'm Alone," the powerful second single from the full-length, where she screams "You make me feel / Yeah, you make me feel." What she feels, we don't know. But one can assume form her tone it's not good - 'You make me feel shitty, desperate, frustrated, etc.' She's a nice combination of the soft country girl with a classic voice like Dolly, Loretta or Tanya, but with a loose-cannon edge like early Alanis Morisette, PJ Harvey or Courtney Love. She's romantic and she's had her heart broken but she won't take it lying down (or standing up). Then she did "Record Collector," an underdog standout from the LP. At this point the quiet and empty portion of the house, right in front of the stage, filled up with dancers, clappers, whoopers and screamers. Lissie was clearly pleased that she was getting so much love. The crowd was into it, for sure. And she didn't really need to promise an encore but it felt nice. Before she closed the set she played some powerful, slow-tempoed voice workouts: "In Sleep," and the damn near Church-like power of Why You Runnin's "Here Before," where she belts "I've been here before / I've seen it all / I can't take no more / I mean it, I'll go." The last song before the encore was the high-energy "Little Lovin.'" The crowd went nuts and, as promised, she came back to sing "Oh, Mississippi" and a cover of the Kid Cudi song, "Pursuit of Happiness." The girl can cover songs well - she's got a popular cover of "Bad Romance" floating around YouTube, too. The Cudi cover was highly-anticipated. At least four or five fans started shouting for it as soon as she started her set. She's a talented girl. There's no question about it. She's not very glitzy or interested in pop sales; but if she keeps it up she'll be making a big name for herself as a wild country lady with vocal, guitar and songwriting chops. She's on track to be a Lucinda Williams and her voice is almost there - she just needs a little more age, booze and heartache.

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