Out of all of today’s musical acts with a bright future, Steve Lacy has the most dazzling present. Barely 21-years-old, the guitarist, singer, and producer already has the accolades that many toil their whole lives to achieve, with several Grammy nominations for his work as part of The Internet, and a Grammy victory for his work on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. Despite this, the perception is that he’s only just getting started, and while he’s an incredibly polished artist, certain details of Sunday’s show at the 9:30 Club show that he’s got plenty more to offer us.
The roar of applause that met Lacy when he sauntered onto the stage was absolutely deafening. Screams and cheers drowned out the initial few bars of “Only If,” the opening track from Lacy’s debut full-length album, Apollo XXI, an audience reaction that confirms his status as guitar hero and sex symbol. Curiously, while Lacy seems to bask in this vocal approval, it’s clear that he’s a sensitive and emotionally intelligent person – on several occasions his voice seemed to break with gratitude and happiness when addressing the audience, and he doesn’t quite have the polished rapport with fans that seasoned veterans do. This is completely understandable, given it’s his first major solo tour, and the candor served to add considerable charm to proceedings.
Speaking of it being a “solo” tour: Lacy’s only backing on the stage was a DJ, playing the backing tracks of his songs while he played guitar and sang over them. It felt sort of like we were watching him do really fancy karaoke. While I understand the logistical and economic reasons for this decision, it was a bit disappointing. The end result was a performance that hewed close to the album’s sounds, but never reached a point of transcendence or had a “wow” moment. Maybe the throngs of teenagers screaming and dancing felt differently, but given how evidently talented the artist is I would have loved to see him play with a band or accompaniment that enabled him to make that leap on the stage. The truth is that the way we make and consume music has changed – and Lacy has been both part of a band and a “bedroom producer” for the majority of his solo career – but playing live gives so much more flexibility and room for the exciting and unknown. Either way, good for you for getting that paper, Steve Lacy, but hope to see you play with your own version of The Revolution next time you’re in D.C.
After slightly over an hour, an outfit change that included a metallic ascot, and a journey through his back catalog, Lacy stood on the stage beaming a huge grin to address the crowd one last time. Even though he admitted that he had run out of his solo material after closing out with “Looks” – a track off the Steve Lacy’s Demo EP – the audience continued to chant his name in adoration. If he’s not quite there for this reviewer, it’s only because I know there’s so much more for him to give.