OAKLAND — Singer-songwriter LP wowed a packed Fox Theater Sunday with little more than the power and range of her voice. The show, a make-up of an appearance postponed due to illness, was in support of the New-York-born, L.A.-based artist’s album Heart to Mouth. While the set was composed primarily of new material, LP kept a chunk of her wildly popular 2016 album, Lost on You, and a couple of other treats. And two things became clear as there night progressed: No two songs were similar enough for fans to become disinterested, and LP just may be the most talented and popular pop vocalist in the U.S. who still travels under the radar.
LP was backed by a four-member band, but beyond a a couple of solos, the band’s job was to set up her powerful voice, which reached from a vibrato falsetto to a lower register about as dramatic as Lady Gaga’s. Her singing style was also pretty close to that of Matt Bellamy of Muse. She began her performance with “Dreamcatcher,” from the newest record, and from the first notes she was already belting out the lines, leaning over the front row of screaming fans, most of whom were women. It was quite stunning how she didn’t need a song to get to those heights. Whatever vocal workout LP had prior to taking the stage, it did wonders.
“When We’re High,” from the 2016 album, had a Euro-disco flair, while new cut “Dreamer” was theatrical and dramatic, and “Someday,” from 2014’s Forever for Now, was the first of two or three songs that were more traditionally poppy but no less effective. Another was new song “Shaken,” which came toward the end of the show. LP hopped around in circles to the blistering drumming and thumping bass of “No Witness,” and her voice was as piercing as a guitar solo on “The Power.”
Between the two songs, which came earlier, she apologized for having to cancel the original date at the last minute and thanked fans for still packing the theater. By the time she got around to new song “Die for Your Love,” about a third of the way through, there seemed to be a general consensus that all of these songs should be hits.
On “One Night in the Sun,” LP fingerpicked her ukulele; unaccompanied for the first few bars and then through the song, which helped keep the song balanced even after the band joined in. Single “Girls Go Wild” ended with her signature whistling (as did a few others, and your opinion of the whistling probably depended on whether it set off a depth charge in your eardrum). Afterward LP briefly left the stage and returned to say she had a laugh about the whistling, but that the next song, “Recovery,” was no laughing matter.
“This is a sad fucking song,” she said. It was also the high water mark for the concert, with verses sung in a lower register that recalled Lady Gaga, and a chorus in falsetto so delicate it probably attracted the birds outside the Fox.
The Latin chord progression of “Hey Nice to Know Ya” led to a rousing shortened cover of the Stones’ “Paint It Black,” before LP took another 90-degree turn to Lost on You‘s operatic “Other People.” That transition was both abrupt and graceful, like a crossover on a dime. She waited until the last song of the main set to pick up an electric guitar on the upbeat but lyrically devastating “Special.” Following a brief break, LP and her band returned for her two biggest hits, the richly ominous “Muddy Waters” and dramatic “Lost On You.” But those weren’t even the encore’s highlight! They were separated by “Strange,” which had LP vocally climbing scales higher than ever—though for all we know, she could have gone higher yet.
Angeleno Lauren Ruth Ward preceded her fiancé on stage with a seven-song set that began in the singer-songwriter mold but steadily morphed into rock performance. Ward and guitarist Eduardo Rivera began with the folky new single “Pullstring,” after which she removed her LP sweater. The duo began “Staff Only” in a similar hazy fashion, but it eventually turned into a blues rocker, with Rivera stomping on a kick drum pad. Each song, including “Did I Offend You?,” “Sheet Stains,” “Blue Collar Sex Kitten” and “Valhalla,” was more and more rambunctious. By the end of her set, Ward had shed another shirt, rolled around on the stage and hopped down to sing alongside concertgoers.
Los Angeles band Slugs, performing as a duo of guitarist Marissa Longstreet and bassist Sarsten Noice, opened the show with a blend of grungy lo-fi garage rock songs (clearly fans of Liz Phair). While Noice’s and Longstreet’s instruments produced harsh sounds, their voiced provided a melodic balance. The duo also addressed the crowd more than the other two acts, cracking jokes along the way.
“We’re on Instagram,” Longstreet said at one point. “We’re taking it seriously, this music thing.”
Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.