Lights @ Pepsi Pop Up Shop — June 26, 2013

July 17, 2013 No comments
Written by Nadya Domingo

Photo by Krystle Merrow

“The siren works with this,” electro-rock artist Lights said, as an ambulance speeded past the Toronto venue. She was tuning her guitar to perform “Suspension,” just one of the many Siberia Acoustic songs on her set list that day at the Pepsi Pop Up shop. Although Queen St. is an expectedly noisy and busy street, it was surprising to hear loud voices seeping through the quieter parts of Lights’ acoustic set.

Lights, alongside cellist Kevin Fox, played to a small, sweaty, and a partially disinterested crowd. Battling through the unbearable heat, the artists glided almost effortlessly through the set, although Lights claimed her whole face was sweating. Lights moved between her guitar and a grand piano, starting with “Flux and Flow” on the guitar. It’s the most powerful ballad on Siberia Acoustic, with Lights’ hard punctuation on the “flows.” It was a surprising start to the show, however, Lights was able to carry the rest of her songs powerfully without losing too much energy.

Between songs, Lights gave anecdotes for the inspiration behind her songs, noting a small Toronto earthquake that gave her the idea for “Peace Sign.” Switching to the grand piano after “Suspension,” Lights played “Pretend” off of her album The Listening. This choice seemed a little out of place compared to the strong lineup of Siberia songs. “And Counting” would have been a brilliant substitution — it’s a touching, tear-jerking song with a backstory linked to themes like longing and change. However, “Pretend” is a staple in Lights’ long list of songs about bravery and adventure. When she sings it acoustically, it’s not simply a string of empty words and strokes of the piano keys to fill a spot in her set list. Music is her gift to the world, and songs like “Pretend” remind us of the messages she creates.

Before finishing with her single “Banner,” Lights rounded off her performance with a cover of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2, which she told the audience was her favourite song. Unlike her cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” which she has previously performed during her electro performances, Lights covered this song in a way that made it her own. Away from her synth and millions of buttons, it’s as though Lights was able to focus on her voice and soft strokes of the guitar strings. This is the epitome of Lights’ acoustic performance, which is an essentially stripped down version of what’s usually weighted with electric pops. Her acoustic performance is definitely proof that a danceable, radio-friendly performer can take her own songs and re-work them to the point where they become something new and even more special.

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