Live Show Review: Lake Street Dive at Cleveland’s House of Blues
Cleveland loves Lake Street Dive. You can feel it in the air. From the moment we walked into the venue, it was obvious that there was a “buzz” around the evening’s act. As the opener finished their set, we could see in the back stage right the outline of one Rachel Price, lead singer of Lake Street Dive. The anticipation was palpable.
As the band came out on the stage there was close to a sellout (easily a few hundred people packed in like sardines). Lake Street Dive brought considerable attitude and swagger with each song. The theme of the evening surrounded their new album Side Pony, which is excellent (review coming soon!). They played some of their older songs, too, but the main point of the evening was clearly four friends doing what they love doing; playing music together.
I kept thinking that the story of the night was Rachel Price’s amazing vocals, but honestly she’s just a part of a stellar group of musicians. Bridget Kearney on standup bass has got to be one of the most incredible artists in music today; her ability to follow bass runs in jazz chord progressions as seamlessly as pop songs stunned me throughout the evening. I had heard this in the music, but watching her do it left me speechless. Mike Olsen, who I once interviewed via email for this site, did not disappoint. He is equally proficient on guitar and trumpet; it seemed like his jazz solos are improvised from night to night, but the scripted horn parts were some of the highlights of the evening for me. Finally, perhaps the artist who gave me a new appreciation was Michael Calabrese on the drums. I have considerable respect for anyone who can play drums well, but Calabrese had the phenomenal responsibility of dealing with Lake Street Dive’s clever rhythm changes and he did it with ease. At one point the spotlights highlighted him for a few minute solo that had the crowd clapping with gusto. The sheer joy on his face while singing harmonies and literally never missing a beat was almost enough to make the night.
Even though we were all there to see Lake Street Dive perform, it was Price’s vocals that really commanded the room. She had us all listening for the next lyric and moving to the beat. (Props to the sound crew, by the way, who had a mix that allowed me in the back left corner to hear every word clearly. Impressive.) Price’s charisma, including a nice PG-13 comment about her barrette, had the fans laughing and singing along throughout the night. Her vintage flair, from clothing choice to song styling, had the crowd acting in a way that can only be described as “intoxicated.” There were folks mouthing the words to the songs, especially the older ones, and providing mimicry of Price’s signature inflections and jazzy flavor. Surprisingly the crowd was of mixed generations, showing the sheer likeability of this group of talented, amiable musicians.
In a night of great songs, there were a few that really stuck out to me. Price’s vocals on “Mistakes” really killed it. The duo with McDuck on horn made the whole thing really pop. Yet again the band seemed to provide just the right kind of harmonies for each song to sound great, which isn’t always easy to do in a live performance. Price’s vocal range, both high and low, was on display for several songs. I found her dynamic power on “So Long” to be absolutely flooring. Her vocals showed a maturity in singing that is simply rare in music today. I kept shaking my head in disbelief after song after song of powerful dynamics and delivery blew me away. “So Long” might have been the top in that regard.
More than anything, Lake Street Dive gave me hope. I won’t ruin the experience for anyone who hears this tour live on later dates, but the encore is pretty jaw dropping. But I say they gave me hope not just for their music and for their fun. They gave me hope for realizing that a band like this – with jazz at their core and plenty of pop goodness from 70s and 80s bands – can draw such crowds. It makes me wonder who really puts together the top band lists year after year because it was obvious to me that Lake Street Dive have a rabid, loyal fanbase. This band, twelve years strong and still on the rise, is clearly here to stay. I loved what I heard. The House of Blues were wonderful hosts and Lake Street Dive had us all reminiscing past relationships, wanting to be band, and having a healthy dose of hope for the future.