â€œWelcome to the Side Pony release tour!â€ Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price informed the sold-out Observatory North Park crowd.
Price was referring to the quirky quartetâ€™s new album on Nonesuch Records, an instantly engaging mix of blues, jazzy pop, â€˜60s rock, and soulful R&B. While many in the crowd were obviously familiar with the band, which formed in Boston 12 years ago, this reviewer was relatively new to them and was soon shocked that they have yet to become a household name.
One of the first things you notice about the group — which also includes guitarist/trumpeter Michael â€œMcDuckâ€ Olson, bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Michael Calabrese — is how incredibly tight they are playing together. Having met and developed their chops at the New England Conservatory of Music, itâ€™s no wonder songs like â€œEasy On You Babyâ€ (which featured a fine horn solo from Olson) and the poignant â€œBetter Thanâ€ (written by Kearney) were delivered with deceptive ease.
Despite the universal talent and dozen years spent honing their sound, the one thing that really sells Lake Street Dive is Priceâ€™s rich, mellifluous, and often sultry vocals. Sheâ€™s one of those rare singers who is equally adept at delivering tender moments — as on the heartbreakingly beautiful â€œSo Longâ€ — as she is belting out big songs like â€œClose to Me.â€ That said, Price is often accompanied by beautiful harmonies from her bandmates, which was particularly evident on â€œSide Ponyâ€ (a song about a hairstyle serving as a metaphor for being yourself) and the set-closing â€œCall Off Your Dogs.â€
The band, named after a street of seedy bars in Olson’s hometown of Minneapolis, turned in a 90-minute performance, covering the majority of the songs on Side Pony. Lake Street Dive also served up some popular tracks from their catalog, including â€œSeventeenâ€ (from 2014â€™s Bad Self Portraits) and â€œDonâ€™t Make Me Hold Your Handâ€ (from their 2010 eponymous album), both of which elicited shouts and squeals. Even a jazzed-up cover of Annie Lennoxâ€™s â€œWalking On Broken Glassâ€ stirred up the crowd.
Throughout the night, Lake Street Dive had no problem rocking their side pony and seemed to be enjoying every moment. With Price swaying her arms and tossing her hair during each song, Olson looking uber chill while effortlessly hopping from guitar to horn, Kearney strumming her standup bass with a subtle head bob, and Calabrese hamming it up behind his drum kit, how could you not join them?
The Suffers — a neo-soul 10-piece featuring another powerhouse female singer in Kam Franklin and a killer horn section — opened the show and proved to be the perfect pairing with Lake Street Dive.