It was a contrast of light and dark when LIGHTS and X Ambassadors took over the Deluxe in Indianapolis’ famed Old National Centre recently. LIGHTS is well known for her airy feel-good synth songs, so it was an interesting, and perhaps risky, decision to bring out X Ambassadors as support due to the drastically different overall mood of the two artists, but it’s a move that seems to have paid off.
The night started at with X Ambassadors making their way to the stage where lead singer Sam Harris’ saxophone was placed front and center, primed and ready to initially confuse, but ultimately amaze newcomers to the band. It didn’t take long for it to make its first appearance, as the band opened up with “Free & Easy” which features a sax solo in the bridge.
The crowd’s reaction was instantaneous. The long-time fans knew what was coming and erupted into cheers on the very first note. The song certainly set the tone: this wasn’t going to be your typical rock set; in a genre that’s normally so concerned with pigeonholing bands with pinpoint accuracy, X Ambassadors defies every genre or sub-genre you could possibly try to place them in.
Keyboardist Casey Harris is just one of the reasons why you couldn\’t pin this band down if you tried, if for no other reason than the fact he didn’t stand still for half a second throughout their entire set. It was a small stage and he ended up being placed mostly out of the reach of the lights, but still Casey Harris thrashed and flailed around his keyboard, looking part ape, part orchestra conductor, and part mad scientist.
Before playing a new song, “Naked,” Sam Harris announced to the crowd that they had just settled on a release date for their upcoming album, which is now officially slated to drop June 23.
Drummer Adam Levin provided a snappy backbeat for Harris to weave his sax in and out of, a sound made even more full by the use of a loop pedal, allowing Harris to record a few measures and then play on top o that recording, giving the song an incredibly full sound.
Eventually the band said their goodbyes to the crowd and launched into their single “Jungle.” If the entire purpose of a closing song is to be memorable and make the crowd want more, “Jungle” is just the song to do the job. It translates live in a way that very few songs ever can. There was hardly any front lighting to highlight the faces of the band, but the backlighting was a chaotic mixture of strobe lights and deep red washes, creating a really dark atmosphere that accented the mood of the song perfectly.
The beauty of the Old National Centre’s Deluxe club was completely stripped away as the song transported fans to some grimy, sweaty underground club. It was a fantastic way to end the set, and certainly put the bar pretty high, leaving LIGHTS with her work cut out for her.
The contrast between X Ambassadors and LIGHTS was only amplified by each of the artists’ choice of closing/opening songs. Whereas X Ambassadors ended on an intense and gritty note, LIGHTS came out with an elegant and restrained intro that built up to “Muscle Memory.”
Fans cheered as she flawlessly hit and sustained her high note at the end of the intro and signaled for her band to head into the song.
Though difficult to photograph, the dramatic blue and white lighting in the room added to the dreamlike quality of a lot of LIGHTS songs. Oftentimes there would be dark shadows cutting across her face, creating a stark contrast with the shimmering white light that rained down behind her.
Despite needing to spend much of her time at her synths at the center of the stage, LIGHTS still managed to work the stage and would often travel to the very edge of each side, leaning out in to the crowd as she sang.
One of the biggest highlights of the night was the emotionally-charged performance of “Same Sea,” off 2014’s Little Machines.
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The song speaks beautifully of connection despite distance, and that’s exactly what in brought. Though not released as a single, this clearly seems to be a fan favorite. Fans enthusiastically sang every word right along with LIGHTS, and during the final chorus they continued a fantastic harmonization as LIGHTS took the lead to the end of the song.
The response to the song was dramatic, and the cheers and applause seemed to surprise and humble LIGHTS as she smiled and uttered a genuine thanks to the crowd before exiting the stage.
The band reemerged and played a few more songs, including the massively successful theme song for the underdogs “Up We Go”, much to the delight of fans who once again chanted every word. As LIGHTS and her band left the stage for the final time fans seemed disappointed that the night had come to an end, but still clearly thrilled and impressed with the 16-song set.