I arrive at the Beacon Theater early enough to browse the merchandise lineup, and after trying – and failing – to bribe the woman holding the frosty VIP table into letting me buy an exclusive concert poster, I take up and wait for the show to start. I watch as audience members arrive, many of whom are wearing bright, colorful, disco-inspired attire – no doubt in homage to Lucius’ very danceable latest album. second nature— while others sport Lucius concert t-shirts from past tours. The last time I was at the Beacon was for Neko Case a few years before the pandemic, and I remember the feeling I had that night, that the folks at Neko were my people. I get a similar vibe from the Lucius crowd. Like me, they are 30-somethings who have been following their favorite bands since high school, and will see them live whenever they get the chance. They are also, like me, old enough to appreciate a seat assignment.
New York-based singer and songwriter Celisse opens the show, immediately capturing the crowd with her soulful vocals, charismatic banter and expert guitar playing. It’s no surprise when I find out, on my post-show dive, that Celisse has done musical theatre, including divine spell at Circle in the Square and the national tour of Bad. Her voice is unique and extraordinary, going from a soft croon to a full-bodied moan in seconds.
Halfway through her set, the mood changes as Celisse introduces her next song. “I’m pissed at our goddamn government,” she says to thunderous applause, and as she begins to sing, I’m brought back to the harsh reality of what happened last week and the possibility that Roe v Wade will be overthrown. Celisse’s raw, visceral delivery literally expresses the grief I feel at such a terrible and urgent moment, but it also provides a kind of balm – a promise of tenacity in moments of darkness and apparent defeat.
That thought barely has time to materialize before Celisse steps into his final number, a heart-pounding rendition of “I’m Every Woman,” the hit Chaka Khan first concocted in 1978 and then delivered to the world. a decade later by Whitney Houston in The bodyguard. As we come to the end of the song, Celisse invites the audience to sing along to the “woah woah woahs”, and my misfortunes rise a little.
After a quick trip to the bathroom, I rush to my seat and wait for Lucius. They finally appear on stage wearing matching white blazers scalloped with multicolored jewels. They walk in sync with center stage while snapping their fingers to the opening beats of “Second Nature,” the title track from the latest album. This song is a bop, and the lyrics “Every time I’m with you/I feel like I could fall apart/Like dancing with a broken heart” always reminds me of Robyn, an artist who creates perfect songs to simultaneously dance and cry.
Then “Calling Out Your Name” followed by “Tempest” and “Promises”. On every song, I remind myself why I love Lucius so much. It’s the harmony. In a world dominated by lone pop superstars, it’s rare to find a band that shares the limelight so completely. (And I mean that literally as well as vocally, as every aspect of Lucius’ performance is delivered in tandem, from their light, tactile choreography to sharing a two-sided microphone and keyboard.) Their voices match each other. mix in a way that cannot be properly captured on recording, and witnessing this vocal sorcery live is thrilling. Other bands that have provided me with a similar sonic phenomenon include Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes and The Weepies.
The next song is “The Man I’ll Never Find”, and perhaps more than any other in the duo’s catalog, this track shows the full extent of Lucius’ vocal prowess and power. In the thematic vein of songs like Judy Garland’s “The Man That Got Away” and Karen Carpenter’s “I Need To Be In Love”, this song posits the possibility of a life without romantic love, that universally sought-after but hard-earned prize. . The song turns into a nice whimper of nostalgia towards the end, much like Radiohead’s “Creep”. I take note to add “The Man I’ll Never Find” to my list of Best of 2022 songs.
As the guitars strum the opener of the next number, my heart skips a beat. It’s my favorite Lucius song, and the one that paved the way for the rest of their work. “Dusty Trails” is a song I discovered on one of my bushwick margarita walks (that’s exactly what it sounds like), and after hearing it for the first time, I loved it. immediately sent to a friend. It includes my favorite line from Lucius: “If we jumped to our pre-realized dreams / We’d be lost without our own guidance.” This lyric echoes another one of my favorites, from Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia”: “People will tell you where they’ve been/They’ll tell you where to go/But until you get there yourself, you won’t never really know.” As the last words of “Dusty Trails” are sung, I hear the man behind me join in the harmony.
A cover of Dottie West’s “Lessons in Leavin'” is followed by “How Loud Your Heart Gets” and “LSD”, a favorite of second nature. At this point, the entire audience is on their feet, and while Lucius’ crowd might not be the most danceable, they like to rock out. So I sway, surrendering to the tide of sound that pours from the neon-lit, shimmering glass stage.
Before the next song, the two singers invite Celisse back on stage before scanning the crowd to choose their favorite “sparkling beasts”, whom they will invite to join them on stage. Two men wearing tight metallic shirts and leggings ascend, followed by a pair of individuals dressed in Lucius drag (sparkly dresses with identical blonde wigs). The entire band on stage performs “Dance Around It” and the costumed volunteers feel the fantasy. The entire segment ends up looking a bit like a bachelorette party at a drag brunch.
As the volunteers leave the stage, the ecstasy of the moment dissipates as Lucius introduces the next song with an acknowledgment of what is currently at stake. they, before explaining how “I just touch myself/because I don’t wanna fuck”, a lyric from “Dance Around It”, is a line that celebrates the human right to do what you want with your own body .
Both singers perform “24” while standing center stage, and the song’s heavy, trance-like synth styles are reminiscent of Angelo Badalementi and the music he provided for David Lynch films. As I listen and wander to the music, I think of the women of the Lynch cinematic universe, often featured alongside their dreamlike look-alikes, and each falling into Lynch’s signature category of a “woman in trouble.” . As Lucius sings the lines “I’m wide awake, but I’m dreaming / Afraid I don’t know the difference”, they could very well be in a Lynch movie, an attached duo who, with a nation of women, committed to confronting the problem head-on.
The bittersweet ballad “White Lies” is followed by “Heartbursts”, a dreamy, shimmering pop song that could have been written in the 80s. “Maybe we could live forever if only we closed our eyes/We would live in a dream,” they sing, and we keep rocking.
They end with “Supernatural Love” and after leaving the stage for the necessary few minutes of applause, they reappear in shimmering silver costumes. For the encore, the band is joined by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, who Lucius recently toured with. He performs the song “Mother” by Pink Floyd while the girls sing in reinforcement, and the line “Mother, should I trust the government?” produces a conscious ripple of dissent in the crowd.
After Waters leaves the stage, Lucius continues with a pair of songs from their debut album. wild woman. The first is “Two of Us on the Run”, a favorite of mine, and one in heavy rotation on my “Fall is Fab” playlist. I especially like the lyrics “Everything else has room to grow / Because in a better light, everything changes.” Next is “Turn It Around,” and as I head for the theater doors (it’s now past eleven and I still have to get back to Brooklyn before an early flight the next morning), I freeze in my tracks then that the song flows into the recognizable opening whispers of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.”
I watch until the end, grateful to have spent time in a world so skillfully and soulfully created by the combined voices of these two women. Lucius’ music straddles the line between grief and hope, and I feel exactly that as I head downtown. Like so many others, I mourn the state of the world, but still wait for a new day to be greeted by voices that rise together in protest, celebration and song.
Daniel Nolen is a writer, designer and performer in New York. He is the co-host of the BroadwayWorld Broken Records podcast, as well as the weekly live show Cast Offs, every Monday at 8 p.m. at Alan Cumming’s Club Cumming.
Photo: Max Wagner