Over the last several years Lucius, the duo of Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, has been a fixture on albums (and live shows) from artists that span genres. From John Legend to Brandi Carlile (co-producer on their most recent record), from John Prine to The War on Drugs — there’s this magic that seems to flow from them — and it has made them the go-to team for rich harmonies. But for even longer, Lucius has been writing and performing their own brilliant danceable pop songs — with their latest, last year’s Second Nature, their best yet.
As Jess told the crowd at their recent show for Rams Head Live! in Baltimore, she and Holly have been doing this for 18 years together, and in that time, they have really honed an impressive live show.
At Rams Head Live! on April 12, the show started with an absolutely riveting performance by Danielle Ponder who, as she told the audience, was a public defense attorney who (at the age of 40) put her cards on the table and didn’t look back as she launched her musical journey.
Here are some photos of Danielle Ponder opening for Lucius at Rams Head Live:
Not having witnessed Lucius before this concert, I was pleasantly struck by the number of fans who filled the barricade dressed in sparkly wigs and matching outfits, ready to celebrate on the dance floor, in a dazzling Lucius motif. And they didn’t have to wait long, as the lights dimmed and the band hit the stage first before a plume of smoke, lighted in pink marked the arrival of Jess and Holly. Stepping in unison, the duo took center stage singing the opening to “Second Nature” fro the new album. Their vocal lines were so closely aligned that it was hard to tell where one ended and the other began.
The stage was festooned in mirrored tiles or sequin on the raised circular spot at the rear of the stage and on a keyboard and other instruments the pair used, giving it this early 1980s electro-dance aesthetic. It reminded me of those great Olivia Newton-John videos — a touch of Xanadu that had me feeling a bit nostalgic.
And, if it wasn’t readily apparent, this was a very active set with Holly and Jess moving across the stage singing both to each other and to this crowd that was just eating it all up. It’s always fun to hear the audience sing along to songs, and this show was no exception as the band had their own chorus of fans helping out.
Serious kudos to the set design and lighting folks! The stage sparkled and glowed along with the music as the pair sang. During the end sequence of the song “Tempest,” Jess and Holly pounded on two floor toms, and the reflected light bouncing off the floor became bursts of energy that lit up the venue.
Watch the official video for “Next to Normal” from Lucius on YouTube:
There are definite themes to Lucius songs. There are songs about longing and wanting to connect. Human elements, the human heart. It’s no wonder that so many of those songs touch something inside that feels universal.
“Alright, can you help us out right now?,” they called out to the crowd, as the hall filled with the refrain of “How Loud Your Heart Gets” — Nobody knows how loud your heart gets / ‘Cause we’re a million miles away but I still hear you / And I’m going going going going to get you
Starting off the song with just their voices, “24” sounded like a hymn, carried across the club, before the band kicked in. And it was compelling when they came back out, facing each other for “The Man I’ll Never Find.”
“It feels so good to be back on the road and feeling this music in a deeper way,” Jess told the crowd. “We are proud and honored to have so many wonderful fans.” Playing “Dusty Trails” off Good Grief, the duo provided one of the quieter moments of the evening, largely performing the song acapella.
Songs like “Dusty Trails” and “Stranger Danger” were the calm before the party storm later that included the dance-inducing “Heartbursts” and “LSD (Love So Deep).”
It was that encore, though, that, for many, was the icing on the cake. As the band returned to the stage, Jess and Holly walked through the crowd, microphones in hand, to stand in the midst of the dancefloor to sing.
Jess even donned a fan’s Orioles cap while the couple sang “Two of Us on the Run” and “Woman” before they came back onto the stage to finish with a brilliant medley of “Turn It Around” with some of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.”
The setlist included:
Next to Normal
How Loud Your Heart Gets
The Man I’ll Never Find
Until We Get There
Two of Us on the Run
Turn It Around / I Feel Love (Donna Summer)
Here are more photos of Lucius performing at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on Wednesday, April 12, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.