Home Live Review Live Review: Alice Phoebe Lou @ 9:30 Club — 4/19/24

Live Review: Alice Phoebe Lou @ 9:30 Club — 4/19/24

Live Review: Alice Phoebe Lou @ 9:30 Club — 4/19/24
Alice Phoebe Lou (Photo by Miriam Waldner)

I think more venues should host early shows, and Alice Phoebe Lou does too. The South African singer-songwriter recently ended a month-long North American tour with an early set at the 9:30 Club in DC.

Taking the stage promptly at 7:30pm, Alice joked with the crowd that she had never been so grateful to play early, because she was wearing her last clean t-shirt. Throughout a relaxed set bathed in warm pink and red lights, Alice and her band translated that gratitude into a joyful performance of her soulful style of indie rock.

Alice’s songwriting deftly weaves country, jazz, and soft rock influences into a dreamy style of indie rock which luxuriates in buttery grooves and plaintive melodies. A beguiling blend of Phoebe Bridgers and Mary Poppins, her songs simultaneously transport listeners to dreamy soundscapes and devastate with poignantly sad lyrics.

In a sold-out show at 9:30 Club on April 19, Alice opened her DC set with solo renditions of “Halo” and “Shine,” two confessional ballads from last year’s album Shelter.

The band, featuring Ziv Yamin on synth, Dekel Adin on bass, David Parry on guitar, and Matthew Roth on drums, then joined her for a beautiful rendition of that album’s standout single “Open My Door” about the need for self care and attention. “I’m taking back all the pieces of me / That were taken unwillingly” she crooned “I’m offering myself up to the heavens / I’m ready to love what I’ve been given.”

Watch Alice Phoebe Lou and her band perform “Open My Door” live on YouTube:

Many confessional indie singers in Alice’s genre adopt a demure, and sometimes downright awkward, onstage persona, as if they are embarrassed that people showed up to hear their music. So it was refreshing to see a sadgirl musician who was visibly excited to perform for and connect with her fans. In between complaining about tour and tuning her guitar, Alice was happy to accept gifts from fans and take selfies with those at the front of the crowd. Her band was also having a good time, riffing on Chris Isaak’s 90s hit “Wicked Game” in between songs and even playing happy birthday for a lucky fan in the crowd (happy birthday Lydia!). When the time came later in the set for the uptempo bop “Witches,” Alice grabbed a huge pointy witch hat from someone in the crowd and placed it jauntily on her bass player’s head as everyone danced to the song’s growly chorus: “I’m one of those witches babe / Just don’t try to save me, cause I don’t wanna be saved.”

“I have too many songs,” Alice warned the audience at the beginning of the set. “So you might not hear the one you want. I come up here and play the songs I want to play, not the ones I’ve fallen out of love with.” Despite that caveat, we were treated to many of her best hits including not just “Witches” but also the angular postpunk-y tune “Glow,” the jaunty showtune number “Dusk,” and the tender velvety ballad “Lover // Over the Moon.”

My favorite moment came during a midset lull in the evening when opener Sam Burton joined Alice for a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s country classic “Early Morning Rain.” Alice asked the murmuring crowd for “a sweet hush” before the two launched into a duet whose piercing harmonies literally took everyone’s breath away. Her ability to bring joy and laughter to a performance while also making space for these moments of genuine awe and beauty are the mark of a truly gifted musician.

“I’m gonna go home with a full heart and just lay in my bed for a week” Alice told the crowd by way of introducing her last song, the upbeat “Dirty Mouth.” The song’s jangly guitars crescendo to a cathartic verse about reclaiming one’s agency and autonomy: “I was a girl with a big heart, And they really roughed me up / My body fell asleep, when they took it away from me / But I got it back, now I do what I like with it / Do what I like with it / Do what I like with it.” In its meandering structure and fun melodic patterns, the song perfectly showcases Alice’s many strengths as a songwriter and performer.

Alice sent us home with hearts equally full, and it was only 9pm. As the crowd streamed out the doors, we were greeted by the young fans who had started lining up at 2pm to catch the indie band Flipturn play at midnight on the same stage. I had never been so grateful for an early show.

Visit Alice Phoebe Lou’s website for more music!


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