LP Brings Back The Cool to DC

Review of Her March 5th Show at the 9:30 Club

LP demonstrates her impressive vocal range during Monday’s performance at the 9:30 Club. Photo: Leanne Tankel.

Been there. Done that. I was inured to the ‘cool,’ an insidious trap thankfully outgrown by adulthood. Then LP stepped onto the stage at the 9:30 Club and I at once knew I was wrong.

Holding her body like a weapon, LP launched her voice to the crowd with a single, perfectly-pitched, soul piercing “HEY!”

Anyone can get love
Anyone can get laid
You know you’re home when you find the ones who stay
Brave enough not to tame
They let you burst into flames
Stoke the coals and then watch you blow

Original as early Dylan, androgynous as Patti Smith from the days of “Horses,” embodying the emotional depth of Jeff Buckley, LP is a force to be reckoned with.

The sold-out crowd was her captive from note one of her aptly titled opening song, “Strange.”

How had I missed LP’s arrival on the music scene? I asked myself. By her third rumination, “Tightrope,” from her recently released, fourth studio album, “Lost On You,” the reoccurring theme of vulnerability as love’s doppelganger was clear. Life is a balancing act with love, the quintessential lightning bolt, an unpredictable force delivering both beauty and destruction in equal measure.

Mountains and valleys, and all that will come in between
Desert and ocean
You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream
Always in motion
So I risk it all just to be with you

From chord intros on a ukulele to whistling, LP radiated originality.

Arriving early to stand near the stage rail, I instinctively mouthed, “You’re amazing,” at our brief second of eye contact, a feeling shared by her die-hard fans. As Gabby, a young and striking 20 something with whom I shared a post-concert Uber, said, “there is no one like her. LP puts so much of her soul into her albums. I am always surprised when I see her perform, because she finds more to give.”

In contrast to the understated, outward simplicity of her stage attire, LP’s power comes from her incredible voice. She captures human hurt in songs such as “Recovery,” “When We’re High” and “Switchblade.”

A few days before the concert, I interviewed LP. I asked her how her career got started. “Just basically fumbling around in the dark in those days before YouTube and Instagram. Playing those few shows a month hoping some record person would stumble upon us,” she replied, laughing.

Take my advice. Spend time with LP’s records. Experience her live. I am sure her “cool” will not be lost on you.

A concert junky, music aficionado, and live music reviewer for Hill Rag and DC Music Review, Leanne Tankel studied writing at both UC Berkeley (BA) and Boston University (MA). In addition to music reviews, she writes prose, and her manuscript, Broken Hallelujah: notes from a marriage, was a 2011 short-list finalist for the Santa Fe Literary Awards program. Leanne lives with her three sons and two pugs in Northern Virginia.