Lush returned to the stage at the 9:30 Club for a first encore Wednesday, and vocalist Miki Berenyi stepped up to the microphone.
“This song is for Chris,” she told the very full house. “We all miss Chris.”
With that brief intro, Lush launched into the dreamy, introspective “Lost Boy,” a lullaby to someone who has faded away, never to return. The Chris in question of course is former Lush drummer Chris Acland, who committed suicide in 1996. Chris’ death prompted the dissolution of the band after three full-length and one extend play albums, all issued during the height of UK shoegazing in the early to mid-’90s.
“Lost Boy” is one of four new songs on a new EP, Blind Spot, which Lush published themselves earlier this year. Miki told reporters that if Lush were to return after 20 years away, they felt the band should return with *something* new to offer instead of touring as a tribute to its former self. Toward the end of the main set, Lush also perform “Out of Control” from the new songs, singing of the pain of intense love. It’s a classic-sounding song from a band that very much sounded quite vital still.
However which way Lush orchestrated their turn, the important thing is that it works. And part of how the band as a whole works is because of the uniqueness of its ingredients and the welcome familiarity of its sound. There is no vocalist at all quite like Miki: She sounds haute, sexy, and rock-n-roll all at the same time, and the remarkable comfort of her singing voice can only be described as “lush,” to borrow a word.
She’s joined on guitar and backing vocals by Emma Anderson, and the two women obviously share a bond that keeps them synchronized. Bassist Phil King is back also, and the impossibly well-groomed gent adds a great deal of gravitas with his presence. Taking over for the late Chris is Justin Welch, who previously played in Elastica and Spitfire. I never saw the original Lush line-up perform, but Justin capably elevated the Lush catalog with sweeping drum rolls and idyllic melodies.
At the start of the show, Lush transport us back to the beginning of their career with “De-Luxe” and “Breeze” and soon hitting the popular “Thoughtforms” from the Scar EP. (That enduring song lends its name to a very active Lush fanzine.) Certainly, Lush have held the crowd in the palm of their collective hand at this point, but the band really starts to catch fire in the latter half of its set, playing the glittering “Lit Up” from second album Split. They follow that with another enduring song, “Scarlet” from that powerful debut EP. The band then tag debut LP Spooky with “For Love,” a hazy if biting song about a girl who seems too shallow for her own good.
The end of the set brings the phenomenal “Ladykillers,” a rare offering from third album Lovelife, which saw the band go more mod and less psychedelic. Still, the song itself is a scorching burn of self-absorbed men who deliver false flattery in their efforts to score. While the voices and pop guitars of the ladies are on display here, Phil’s bass adds impressive depths to the dark corners of the song.
Lush close the main set with “Sweetness and Light,” the alluring dreampop number that served as Lush’s first official single and first notice to the United States, where it did pretty well on the charts in 1990.
Speaking of the United States, Lush continued their US comeback tour with a stop in Los Angeles last night, and they play in Portland on Tuesday, closing out their visit to America. But Lush certainly appear to be back, and they have a few more festivals ahead of them this year, including Iceland Airwaves in November.
I urge you to revisit this wholly unique and very talented band at your earliest convenience. Let’s look forward to more opportunities to do just that from Lush next year perhaps? All the same, welcome back indeed, Lush. It was very very good to see you, and hear you, again, judging by the very enthusiastic response from the 9:30 Club audience.
Here are some pictures of Lush performing at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016.