Concert Review: Steve Lacy is More Than TikTok


Sarah Delima, Senior Staff Writer

In a now-viral TikTok from his Give You the World Tour, Steve Lacy is seen smashing a fan’s disposable camera on the ground. In another popular video from the same tour, Lacy urges the audience to sing a verse from his hit song “Bad Habit,” but to no avail — they don’t know the lyrics. Both moments are indicative of the singer’s tenuous relationship with social media. Without the addictive algorithm of TikTok, Lacy’s music might not have reached beyond the tight circle of niche alternative and R&B listeners. But this popularity also led to the emergence of a dispassionate following, much to the annoyance of Lacy himself. Lacy’s fanbase is wide, but not deep: thousands of new fans flock to his concert motivated by their desire to capture a single moment of virality, but then find themselves struggling to sing along.

I caught the last show of Lacy’s sold-out tour at the North Park Observatory last weekend. Originally slated to play in San Diego in November, the “Bad Habit” singer rescheduled the last leg of his North American tour to perform on Saturday Night Live. Lacy’s newest project “Gemini Rights” is a poignant heartbreak album that foregrounds his affinity for melody and funk. In his performance of “Helmet,” Lacy’s talents as a guitarist and producer are on full display. The track thumps, twangs, and jangles — a perfect cacophony of instrumentals and Lacy’s natural melodic cadence. Opener Fousheé joined Lacy during his set to perform “Sunshine,” a blissfully harmonic track that matched Fousheé’s airy vocals to Lacy’s pining lyricism.  Although most of the set list included songs from “Gemini Rights,” we saw a return to Lacy’s roots in performances of “Ryd” and “Dark Red.” When performing “Some,” a crooning track off of his 2017 tape, Lacy imbued the song with vocal flourishes and his characteristic California funk. The audience responded kindly, shout-singing the lyrics back to him: “Baby, I want some of your love / Your love.” 

Upon nearing the end of the concert, the audience’s excitement was palpable. Soon, Lacy would perform his viral sensation “Bad Habit,” and provide fans with an opportunity to capture a live rendition of the TikTok sound. In front of me, a high school girl stood immovable behind her phone screen, arms perfectly positioned to capture the viral track on video. Fans clamored around Lacy a few rows ahead, cameras at the ready. While Lacy has always been disapproving of his listeners’ tendency to view his performance through their screens, this sense of annoyance has been heightened by his recent TikTok fame (hence the camera-smashing). 

To many of his new fans, Lacy’s extensive music career is eclipsed by the sped-up chorus of one TikTok song. But his newfound success is not a random byproduct of a mastermind algorithm. Rather, Lacy’s renown is long overdue: he has an almost preternatural ability of crafting innovative beats and performs with a charisma reminiscent of musical legend Prince. While social media platforms attempt to reduce Lacy and his music to a fifteen second clip, Lacy insists on the breadth and complexity of his work: “I am not a product or a robot,” he says, “I am human.”

Image courtesy of Elias Roman