Lake Street Dive in Los Angeles
by Larson Sutton on May 30, 2018
“See, one person can change the world,” declared Lake Street Dive’s singer Rachel Price. It wasn’t really change on a global scale to which she was referring; rather the vibe at the Ford. On a Wednesday evening under the Hollywood stars, one especially fired-up fan flipped the script from seated-conservative cool to dance-party heat, and the night came alive. Lake Street Dive has been a favorite of Los Angeles audiences for several tour cycles, each visit gathering larger crowds. Their Wiltern appearance a few years back served as the band’s biggest to date. So, it came as a little surprising that the Ford Theatre show appeared on the schedule.
It’s a cozy, outdoor space; an architectural marvel sculpted into the Hollywood Hills across from the famed Hollywood Bowl, on the opposite side of the relentless 101 freeway. Yet, the remarkably sedate confines, and capacity of 1,200, are well-suited to the cultural events the manicured-stone amphitheater normally hosts throughout the summer season, and at first glance seemed a venue this rock-and-soul quintet could’ve filled twice over.
The sold-out stop was special; part of a warm-up run of the newer repertoire touching down in a half-dozen or so major markets to start a summer tour in support of Free Yourself Up, their latest album released a few weeks earlier. Price mentioned late in the set they’d be back in a few months at the Wiltern, but that was after much of the evening’s revelry; after the opening countdown- 5,4,3,2,1- cut through the dry-ice fog, and Price ignited the groove of the album’s lead-off, “Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts.”
Easy as it is to lock-in on Price, her classically-skilled pipes, her slinking and magnetic movements, and her charming between-songs stories and smiles, this is a band, and one devising wonderfully imaginative arrangements within accessible, hook-driven songs. Longtime a quartet, the band added keyboardist and singer Akie Bermiss, whose slices of clavinet, organ, and synth round out the harder edges. Already, this was an ensemble that squeezed everything out of the trio backing Price; with double-bassist Bridget Kearney drawing raucous approval for a solo break on “Bobby Tanqueray,” (one of a trilogy about the band’s scoundrel). Then, there’s the flawless time-keeping of head-banded drummer Mike Calabrese, who may be having the most fun driving the steady-rock array of beats. And, of course McDuck, (aka Mike Olson), carving up chordal accents on guitar or wrenching hearts with lonely trumpet on “Mistakes.”
It was after “Tanqueray” that the zealous decorum-breaker appeared between front row and stage, emphatically waving his arms for the capacity crowd to rise, to fill the aisles, and to give back some love. Which the crowd did with gleeful abandon. Free yourself up, for sure.
The timing was impeccable, and by Price’s appreciative reaction, clearly unplanned, coinciding with a lively string- including “Spectacular Failure,” “Call Off Your Dogs,” and the angular shifts of “Hang On.” Things settled back down with Price’s emotive “I Can Change,” and Bermiss taking ownership of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One,” until a powerhouse triple-shot followed, starting with a heavier slant on their hit “Bad Self Portraits” that curled into their current chart-climber, “Good Kisser,” as Price’s vocals hit their growling peak. Then the cocktail bop of “You Go Down Smooth,” and a nod to HeadCount and its voter registration efforts.
“Musta Been Something,” “Shame, Shame, Shame,” and the closing “Dude” marked three of the final four of a show intently leaning into the new record. An encore of the patiently smoldering “What I’m Doing Here” turned inferno-like on Hall and Oates’ yacht-rock staple, “Rich Girl,” leaving an optimistic promise of a September return and a summer to ponder how one dancing man and one brilliant band can change the world. If only for a couple hours.
Authors: Larson Sutton