October 12th, 2010 | Live reviews

Lissie by Josh Liddy

Back in November of last year I spent back to back nights at the Orpheum Theatre checking out one of my favorite singers in the world, Ray LaMontagne. Coincidentally, what I did not know was that I would be falling in love with someone else. That someone was a 20-something year old singer-songwriter from Rock Island, Illinois named Lissie. During the sets she stood out there alone with her electric guitar and belted out song after song from her just released EP, Why You Runnin’. What I remember most is being beyond impressed by literally everything that was happening on that stage—her vocals, her playing, her emotion, charm, look… You name it, I was basically sold. I also remember making sure I immediately went out to the merchandise booth so I could pick up a copy of the EP for the ride home. I must confess, in the age of the internet I’m not one for rushing out and buying anything. But, there I was, waiting in line to snatch this disc up.

Fast forward almost one calendar year and after multiple successful tours overseas, she’s back to Los Angeles and playing for a sold out Troubadour. This was obviously something special for her and she said as much almost instantly. After hearing the approval from the gathered crowd, she launched into her version of the Hank Williams song “Wedding Bells,” and then followed that up by playing the rearview-relationship derived “Worried About,” off of her debut album, Catching a Tiger. Hearing the first few chords initiated a number of screams based in the pure satisfaction of finally getting to hear “that” song live. With Lissie overseas for the majority of the year, this was just the 2nd US show since the release of her fantastic album. People were excited, and I don’t blame them, as there was plenty to be excited about.

The energy was raised yet again when it was clear that the band was delving into “When I’m Alone,” one of her quick-paced standout singles. The song was extended, allowing guitarist Eric Sullivan to display an array of talent during an electric guitar solo. The band—made up of Sullivan and bassist/drummer Lewis Keller—blended in seamlessly, both musically and visually, with the easygoing Lissie. The good chemistry reflected throughout the set. The odd genre “folk-pop” was done brilliant justice during the carefree track “Cuckoo,” which details how any socially-branded misfit can feel right at home with the company that Lissie keeps. “Everywhere I Go,” the beautiful and haunting ballad, was soon to come and Lissie explained the story behind the official video. Filmed while she was in Germany, it incorporates an African elephant named Marlin, who follows her around the countryside representing the “angel” that is so often referenced within the lyrics. This was succeeded by “In Sleep,” a song based around an individual that only comes to fruition during her dreams, and the struggle to maintain that reality before waking up. The crowd rocked with the pace of the song, singing along and enjoying another guitar solo by Sullivan before being treated to “Little Lovin’,” an upbeat country song that turns into a (for lack of a better word) “hoedown,” taken to another level by the grunge rock and hand-clapping elements. This radiated a positive energy that cannot be explained, only experienced for oneself.

Lissie by Josh Liddy

After a brief pause while the audience made it known they required an encore, Lissie obliged and came back out to play her homage to the river that flows through her stomping grounds, “Oh Mississippi.” The show was then brought to a close when she granted a request from a friend standing in the crowd and played her cover of the Kid Cudi song “Pursuit of Happiness,” preceded by her customary tequila shot.

The aforementioned “folk-pop” genre seems downright made for her emotional voice and heavy but catchy lyrics. Mix that with her ability to cross genres and bring in bundles of new fans by taking very famous songs and making them uniquely her own (Often better than the originals. Just Google “Lissie + Bad Romance” for all the evidence you need). A musician to be reckoned with, Lissie is grounded and genuine, and that creates a lasting impression when mixed with the talent that she and her bandmates possess. Lissie is the real deal, raw and honest, clearly enjoying her much-earned success.

Josh Liddy (words and photo)