Arts & Culture

Songstress lights up otherwise dark night

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, January 30, 2012

Canadian pop starlet Lights — nee Valerie Poxleitner — has come a long way since her sugary first LP dropped in 2009. Her high-energy performance at The Met Friday night, mainly featuring tracks from her sophomore effort, “Siberia,” was more grit than girly.

Blasts of surprisingly raw dub backed her keening vocals. Omnipresent strobe illuminated her dozens of tattoos. At times, she seemed to go into a trance, bent backward over her synthesizer.

None of this, though, could save the show from rising above run-of-the-mill. The dubstep, which features prominently on “Siberia” courtesy of electrofunk collaborators Holy F— , is an imaginative touch and a signal that the genre is making inroads into the mainstream. But a half-dozen dub clips do not a spectacle make.

Halfway through, the concert took a redoubtable turn for the Taylor Swift, with a saccharine-sweet solo keyboard rendition of the melodramatic “Heavy Rope,” some cutesy facial tics and a ballad duet with band member Aaron Fink. Even during this interlude, it was clear that Lights’ voice has matured beyond the breathy simper characteristic of her debut, “The Listening,” which garnered her the Juno Award for Best New Artist.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the otherwise rather unremarkable show was not simply the diversity of the small crowd but the intensity of its fanship, especially for an artist who receives almost no stateside airplay.

Most of the crowd — which ranged from shrieking middle school girls and their grudging parents to fraternity brothers and middle-aged couples ­— had discovered Lights’ 2008 EP online and followed her ever since. A remarkable number of concertgoers had driven for hours to attend. One couple had danced to “Drive My Soul” at their wedding.

“In the (United States), people don’t see you on TV or hear your songs on the radio. Whether it’s word of mouth or going online and watching music videos and finding your songs — they feel like they’ve discovered you,” Lights told The Herald. “There’s real investment (among fans) in the U.S.”

Up-and-coming Brooklyn group Savoir Adore opened the show. The five-piece outfit, while technically sound, was sonically unconvincing: an unadventurous and at times gimmicky indie effort borrowing without shame from more successful ventures.

But Lights — whose chameleon nature avoids such cliched musical tropes — may be a woman to watch.