Steve Lacy goes above and beyond in his performance at The Observatory North Park as he redefines what concerts are capable of representing.
“Thank you guys for supporting my album. And for those who hate the album, that’s okay too. I still have your money,” Steve Lacy joked to a laughing crowd in between songs off of his latest album “Apollo XXI.”
“Your album sucks,” a voice humorously shouted in jest from the crowd, drawing out warm smiles and happy chuckles from both the audience and Lacy himself.
“I love you too,” Lacy replied.
Steve Lacy’s show felt exceptionally intimate as hundreds of bodies crowded around a stage and actively interacted with playful remarks made by the artist. This kind of interaction between performers and their fans at shows is not a unique occurrence, and Lacy’s engagement with his audience through light-hearted jokes and comments is not exclusive to him. However, the measures Lacy took to ensure that the entire arena felt fully connected to both him and his music felt particularly touching. Lacy is notably outspoken against the use of phones at his shows, and the amount of respect that the audience had forto respect his wishes toand simply enjoy the moment left me overwhelmed, to say the least. Although I believe there is nothing inherently wrong with using your phone to record a moment in time, the absence of screens is something that I rarely ever experience at shows. Everybody in that room was completely hypnotized without any outside distractions. Us. Him. A room full of people singing their hearts out and connecting over music. This was the purest possible bond that an artist and his listeners could be capable of having. That was all that was there. That was all that mattered.
Lacy’s set felt refreshingly distinct from the direction that most performers turn to when they rearrange their songs. He decided to do something that is not entirely common in the music industry — he performed his entire album from start to finish. Typically, artists use their most recent album for promo and then name their tour accordingly to the title of their latest project. On these tours, performers tend to play a few songs off of their new album, but mix it alongside previous hits and other favorite tracks. Lacy playing his entire album in order without any skips came as a shocking but welcome surprise. There was a sense of familiarity in hearing the album being played, but the live aspect of the show completely changed the listening experience. His live show was much like hearing “Apollo XXI” in your bedroom for the first time because there was such a strong sense of intimacy to within being able to hear an entire album — the entirety of a project someone has put their heart into creating and perfecting — without any skips. Artists painstakingly place their songs in the order in which they believe will make the most sense, and this purposeful arrangement is essential to fully understanding any album. This element of his album was not taken away from his show, and so the experience of being able to hear an entire live album live was truly unforgettable.
Steve Lacy began with “Only If,” the first track off of his debut album “Apollo XXI,” and tirelessly performed every song from the tracklist right after each other. Although it was the first track Lacy performed, the room immediately filled with loud voices starting from the first verse as hundreds of fans yelled along in unison to the lyrics of this self-healing song. Every single song gave off a different vibe and evoked contrasting reactions from the audience. “Like Me” helped us feel a little less alone in the world and gave us a connecting hand to hold onto. The peak of the show occurred during “Basement Jack,” where everybody in the crowd started to enthusiastically jump around and mosh as soon as the first few iconic chords played over the speakers. Shoulders slammed into shoulders and feet squashed the neighboring shoes of neighboring feet as the beat vibrated through the air. For the entire song, the floor was a ceaseless eruption of roars and laughs as stress melted away to a fun bassline. “Amandla’s Interlude” was a beautiful instrumental piece near the end of the album that slowly brought down the energy of the room and made everyone collectively sway eyes-closed to the soft melody.
Steve Lacy is bigger than his music. He exudes confidence and self-expression in a manner that is inspirational to his listeners, and has become a symbol of unapologetic free expression. In that small venue with my body pressed against other kids who found solace within his music, I was reminded of who I was and who I could become.
Venue: The Observatory North Park
Date: Oct. 29, 2019