If I had the choice to be part of one band in the world it would be hard to go past Lake Street Dive. Not only do they play great songs (their latest album Side Pony featured high up in our best albums of 2016 list), there’s an incredible chemistry between the quartet and a sheer enjoyment of music that comes across in performance. Add to that some outstanding musicianship and it all makes for one sublime gig: catchy rhythms, perfect harmonies, clever lyrics and plenty of solos.
Opening up with the disco meets gospel groove of ‘Godawful Things’, which was quickly followed by the equally infectious ‘I Don’t Care About You’, the set list drew heavily from Side Pony, while also dipping into earlier material and the occasional cover.
Despite playing with the precision of a well oiled machine, this is no performance by numbers, with a liberal dose of fun keeping things real throughout the show. The third tune of the night, the title track from the album, epitomised this with singer, Rachael Price, slightly thrown by Mike Calabrese’s unexpected use of cowbell and struggling to sing the first line through her laughter. It’s always great to see a band enjoying themselves as much as the audience.
It has to be said that Price’s vocal delivery was flawless, while her stage charisma and physical emoting of the music make her the perfect front-woman.
And they’re all just so talented. Guitarist Mike Olson, for instance, showed his versatility, switching to trumpet at various stages, with the soulful melancholy of ‘Mistakes’ a real highlight that also made for a nice change of pace.
The band also lived up to their reputation for slick covers with a version of ‘Lola’ and a Prince tribute with ‘When You Were Mine’ (introduced by a ripping solo on the upright bass from the energetic Bridget Kearney).
The only false note of the evening came from the decision to have seating front of stage, leaving little room at the back for those wishing to stand. And while some seats at the side would have been fine for those wanting to sit, Lake Street Dive play the kind of toe-tapping music that naturally drives you to your feet. While the crowd were quite enthusiastic from the start, things felt a little constrained at the outset. Then something happened half way through the set; perhaps it was Price’s appeal to our more daring nature in ‘Saving All My Sinning’, with the front of stage spontaneously filling with people up and dancing. All of a sudden things felt right, with a more celebratory tone for the second half. It was one of those shows marked by quite a change from beginning to end.
Late in the show things did get decidedly loose and energetic, particularly with Calabrese’s ‘Moby Dick’ style drum solo leading into ‘Elijah’, and with an end of set bracket packed with great tunes like ‘Bad Self Portraits’, ‘Seventeen’ and ‘Call Off Your Dogs’.
The encore of ‘What I’m Doing Here’, rendered by the band at the front of stage with minimal instrumentation, was the perfect way to end the show, putting the focus on the sweet harmonies.
Those who turned up to The Gov on Wednesday night really witnessed something special. With the band in the country for a few more shows (including the Sydney Festival), music lovers in Melbourne and Sydney should rush to snap up any remaining tickets.
Reviewed by Matthew Trainor
Pictures by Libby Parker