Lissie performs at 9:30 Club on Nov. 6, 2022. (Photo by Casey Vock)
“I grew up on the Mississippi River,” said Lissie, a native of Rock Island, Illinois, recently to the audience at the 9:30 Club. “I didn’t necessarily think that was interesting, but as I moved away and the years passed,” she came to see that it was. Lisse, for example, wrote an interesting song, “Oh, Mississippi,” while living in Los Angeles, where she had moved to pursue her music career, achieving success at first placing songs in TV shows and movies (such as House, Veronica Mars, and The OC).
It’s understandable Lissie wasn’t crazy about her hometown growing up. She was expelled from high school as a senior, something also happened the great Lucinda Williams).
(I found the key to avoiding that fate was to get out in three years, and to spend most of that last year attending classes at a local university. They can’t kick you out if you’re already gone!)
About six years ago, Lissie moved back to the Midwest, to northeastern Iowa. While she had a fair amount of success with song placement, and then with her own early recordings — and she earned opening slots on tour with Lenny Kravitz and Ray LaMontange — she left the major label system and decided to pursue her career her way.
At 9:30 Club on Nov. 6, the show was her first appearance in the DMV since the covid pandemic, and her first full band show in even longer: Her last show in the area was a smaller, solo piano show. She just released a new album, called Carving Canyons, her first LP of original material since 2018’s Castles. Introducing “Flowers,” she explained, “There’s an arc of grief to [the album], from anger to acceptance.”
Watch the official music video for “Flowers” by Lissie on YouTube:
The set opened with the kickoff track, “Unravel,” co-written with soul singer Anderson East. But rather than frontload her set with the new material, she spread it evenly, mixing in crowd-pleasing older favorites like “Sleepwalking,” “Best Days,” “Don’t You Give Up On Me,” “Hero,” “Further Away (Romance Police),” “When I’m Alone,” and “In Sleep.” “Sad,” another new track, “was written in the anger stage of grief.” She added, “It’s important to feel all your feelings.”
The back third of the set included the rousing new track “Chasing the Sun” and the title cut. The set closed with “When I’m Alone” and “Night Moves,” which is definitely not the Bob Seger song (though it seems like a nod to her midwestern roots). For her encore, she sang “Everywhere I Go” and a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare).”
Watch the official music video for “Everywhere I Go” by Lissie on YouTube:
Lissie music has been characterized as alt-country or Americana, but I don’t hear a lot of country in it. There’s no twang, no steel guitar, banjo or fiddle; this was a straight-ahead pop/rock instrumental setup: guitars, bass, keys/snyths, and drums. The best description of this is probably “pop with brains,” a phrase I picked up from Tyler Coe. A certain segment of music fans will try to characterize music as another genre rather than admit to liking pop. But some of pop is great! This is great!
I was familiar with the opener, Cat Clyde, but hadn’t seen her perform before, and she definitely impressed. As someone said to me between sets, “Not everyone can do a one-man show.” Clyde has a remarkable voice and distinctive look that reminded some of Sinead O’Connor and Fiona Apple. Her last song, “All The Black,” sounded to me like the best song Jason Molina never wrote, which is very interesting, as she told me she’s never listened to his work. She has some of the dark, gothic undertones that pervaded his work. A native and resident of our friendly neighbor to the North, this tour was Clyde’s first time in the States in three years.
Cylde’s set began with “My Rifle, My Pony, and Me.” She told the audience she’s just recorded a new album, and she played 2 songs from that: “Everywhere I Go” and “Eternity.” Her set also included “Walkin’ Down The Road,” “So Heavy,” “Anymore,” “Bird Bone,” “Man I Loved Blues,” “The River,” “Mama Said,” and “So Cold.” Clyde is a really impressive talent, and I’m excited to see where her career goes from here.
Here are pictures of Lissie and Cat Clyde performing at 9:30 Club on Nov. 6, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of Ari Strauss.