Valerie Poxleitner, better known by her stage name Lights, has done well for herself in recent years.
The Canadian singer-songwriter's last two studio albums made it into the top 50 on the US Billboard charts and broke into the top 5 on the Canadian charts. On the back of that success, she found herself in Houston last night for her second visit this year.
"Are you ready to sing loud, Houston?” she asked the crowd, a smile spread wide across her face. “I've missed you!"
Lights began her set with an intimate yet aggressive performance of "From All Sides," a track featured on 2014’s Little Machines. Her band remained behind mesh curtains, their silhouettes illuminated by backlights as she stood alone center stage, singing of vulnerability over guitar riffs that would sound right at home on an Interpol album.
Her penchant for upbeat synth-pop tunes notwithstanding, Lights’ untapped strength might be with moodier songs. During the first five minutes of her performance Sunday night, fans were treated to a side of hers rarely seen. But the dreamy “From All Sides” served only as a prologue, with the rest of the evening devoted to her lighter, happier repertoire. From “Toes” to “The Last Thing on Your Mind,” the remainder of the show was positive and energetic, but it lacked the emotional charge of the opening song.
Lights again proved her voice to be her strongest asset with pitch-perfect delivery and a robust growl that echoed through Warehouse Live, providing a backbone to her live performance that isn’t always heard on her professionally-recorded tracks.
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The crowd was small but enthusiastic, and Lights returned the favor. She devoted “Siberia” to a couple in the crowd who were preparing for another tour of duty in Afghanistan and she made another fan’s night when she graciously accepted a drawing the girl brought to the show. She also sent the crowd into a frenzy when she announced her plans to release an acoustic version of her latest album.
The singer is as sweet as maple syrup and as talented as they come. Up until this point, her music has yet to really take off in the states, but more songs like “From All Sides” could provide the momentum she needs to truly cement her standing in the American music industry. In the meantime, “Same Sea” and “Running With the Boys” are primed for radio play.
The Openers: The Mowglis, whose name alone grabbed my attention, put on an energetic set, perfectly preparing the crowd for Lights' set.
Random Notebook Dump: Even small Houston crowds are obnoxious. Shut up already.