On February 16th, alternative R&B artist Steve Lacy brought out a crowd rivaling that of the population of a small nation. Packed like sardines in Oakland’s Fox Theater, this sold-out show attracted fans from far and wide hoping to catch a glimpse of gen-z’s latest prince of indie pop. Following a tour plagued with criticism, Lacy provided not only his signature blend of jazz inspired R&B, but also a candid glimpse into the mind, ego, and personality of the icon himself.
The opening act, Foushée, provided a highly entertaining set of high energy, punk-influenced pop rock. Bouncing and zipping around the stage, Foushée won over the audience with her passionate performance and upbeat catchy hooks. After a moshpit-worthy performance by Foushée, the crowd buzzed with energy as they eagerly awaited the presence of Lacy.
In the audience, colorfully dressed teens and young adults clutched handmade signs and memorabilia of Lacy, making it abundantly clear of the singer’s community of die-hard fans. For Lacy, this loyal cult-following proved useful amidst backlash stemming from viral videos of the singer lashing out at his concerts. Clearly, these fans stuck by his side and continued to support him despite the star’s alleged diva complex. After all, touring is stressful and everyone has a bad day, right?
Fans erupted in uproarious applause when Lacy took the stage, kicking off the set with hits such as “Basement Jack,” “Mercury,” and “Only If.” After a small hiccup in the opening song (Lacy asserted that the audio mixing was off and they had to start the song over), the concert flowed as smoothly as his soulful R&B beats. Undeniably talented, the singer effortlessly switched between guitar and vocals, breezing through popular songs from his Grammy winning sophomore album, Gemini Rights.
Between songs, Lacy clearly made an effort to engage with the audience through banter and the occasional long-winded life talk. While this banter was appreciated, there was an air of indifference about it as if it was a forced PR move to repair his image in the media. Although executing this role very well (expressing gratitude to his fans, signing memorabilia, recanting self-deprecating anecdotes to appear friendly and humble), his dry nihilistic delivery sometimes hinted at an underlying impatience with this charade.
Despite doing all the right things and saying all the right words, Lacy’s disinterest in touring and engaging with the audience remained apparent. The star made a point to address his outbursts at previous concerts (in a palpably passive-aggressive manner), claiming that he saw the footage and found it funny. The singer really lathered on the shmooze by singing happy birthday to an unknown member of the audience (or perhaps for anyone in the audience whose birthday it happened to be?), but temporarily broke character following the song, stating dryly, “Yeah. You got older. It’s all downhill from here.”
It is worth noting that in one of the singer’s tangents, he stressed the importance of not idolizing celebrities. He asserted that much like everyone else, celebrities and performers are real people who aren’t perfect and sometimes make mistakes (perhaps indirectly alluding to his previous outbursts on stage).
Crooning through hits such as “Infruami,” “Some,” and “N Side,” Lacy proved his talent as an exceptionally skilled singer and musician, effortlessly gliding through songs with impressive falsetto. His high notes during “Amber” brought the house down! Foushée, the opening act, also made an appearance during Lacy’s song “Sunshine” which features her on the album. On stage, Lacy and Foushee demonstrated tangible chemistry. Foushee’s upbeat, enthusiastic energy seemed to rub off on Lacy and for a short moment, he appeared to be genuinely enjoying performing.
The singer closed out the show with his most popular tracks. Although delivering an impressive performance of “Bad Habit,” the singer appeared noticeably annoyed playing one of his biggest hits, “Dark Red.” Internet rumors previously claimed Lacy had grown tired of this track and actively disliked playing it, which proved to be true. Lacy rushed through the first half of the song, speeding up the tempo at a comedically fast rate to get through the chorus quicker. While I appreciated him performing this song (it had been one of my oldest favorites), I would have also appreciated a more genuine performance from him.
After the concert, there was a mass exodus of Lacy’s legions of fans in leaving the Fox Theater. Clearly not affected by the singer’s dispassion, a massive line of fans snaked around the entryway waiting to buy the star’s exorbitantly priced merchandise. In simply exiting the venue, I heard multiple fans in disbelief of the $175 (yes, one hundred seventy five dollar) price tag of a simple hoodie.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve Lacy! This review was in no way meant to be a malicious or scathing exposé. It is nearly inarguable that Steve Lacy is an extremely talented musician, and his exceptional skill as a guitarist, song-writer, and vocalist testifies to this fact. His music is catchy, imaginative, and pleasant to listen to. As a long-time fan of Lacy and his music, I did enjoy the concert. However, his half-hearted performance emitted an aura of vague pompousness leaving me a little bit unsatisfied. In all honesty, opening act Foushée stole the show with her vibrant, passionate performance compensating for Lacy’s lack thereof. Nonetheless, Lacy delivered a night of entertaining music and I am grateful for the experience of being able to see some of my favorite songs being played live.