Now, Now took the stage at Concord Music Hall, opening for St. Lucia, on Wednesday, October 3. After a rather scrutinized security line and required bag check, I walked up the flights of stairs to the synthy sounds of America’s Next Great Band (as judged by Fader).
Now, Now’s newest album, Saved, came out back in May … and its been on my rotation since its release. I’d waited 5 years for more of the band’s electric and intoxicating pop riffs (the band’s last album, “Threads,” came out in 2012), and the wait was worth it. “MJ” is a country-twinged and echoey vent to Michael Jackson, “AZ” is haunting in nostalgic storytelling and sonic effects, and the list of experimental earworms on “Saved” goes on.
Now, Now rolled out their amp — covered in pink duct tape (matching the color of lead singer’s KC Dalager’s hair) to spell out “We Believe Her” in reference to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. They took their places around St. Lucia’s covered instruments under colored lights. Lighting is not always an aspect of the show the opener gets a say in, but I was glad Now, Now did get a say as it brought their album and merch aesthetic to life — the blues and red lights evoking sadness and passion in neon passings.
Dalager brought out her electric guitar for single “AZ” — a simple story-line delivered so beautifully over built-up instrumentals that I never realized the chorus is repeated 10 times until googling the lyrics just now. The band formed a three-person guitar line and bopped in-sync to rev up the crowd.
But even with easy-to-remember lyrics and crowd-engagement, Now,Now couldn’t overcome the opening slot’s challenges. Dalager lent her mic to the crowd for the chorus on lead-single “SGL,” but was only echoed by a few fans who, in the face of the relative quiet, lost confidence in their memorization skills and trailed off.
However, Dalager tried again unfazed. Her confidence proved that Now, Now is neither used to being an opening act (they toured this summer and played Lincoln Hall) nor content with staying that way.
This mindset was best exemplified in the band’s closer, “P0WDER.” After I wrote down that it was an odd choice for a show closer (although it is the ultimate song on the album), Dalager looked like she was going to hand the mic to the lady in the front of the audience. Both the lady and I got nervous at the prospect, noting the failed attempts during “SGL,” but Dalager continued to hop the gate into the crowd. She walked around in no certain path with her head down, neon pink hair covering her face. Eventually, she kneeled right in front of me getting into the deconstructed, angsty outro of the song. The audience looked at each other as the music flowed along — the star of the show was on the ground and the band vacated the stage, where else was there to look?
It was intimate moment that brought an uncomfortable closeness less between audience and artist than audience members themselves. And it brought the song’s lyrics, “Like an angel waiting, I let you surround me,” to life in brilliant poignancy. Was it a lot for an opening act to expect of the audience? Yes. Did it fall flat? No.
The band was in-touch with when to be self-serious (playing their music to new ears) and when to be self-deprecating (playing to fans at the merch table with a Meow, Meow cat shirt).
Now, Now’s 2012 revival story was an interesting parallel to the headliner, St. Lucia’s, path to music in 2018. The band’s debut album, When The Night, was released in 2013, but while Now, Now split up that year, St. Lucia forged on in the indie-sphere. They released Matter in 2016 and Hyperion on September 21.
Where Now, Now’s music evolved into new soundscapes in the 6 year break, St. Lucia’s top singles “Dancing on Glass” and “Elevate” feature nearly identical instrumental hooks. Now, Now leaned heavily on their new work during their set, but St. Lucia chose to play nearly the same amount of songs from their 2012 and 2018 records. The audience roared for songs off the first album like “Closer Than This” (the person in front of me even chose to livestream it in entirety) and the band closed with top hit “Elevate.” This weighting makes sense in-line with their Spotify data: Streams from the first album make up over 60% of their top 10 popular tracks.
St. Lucia is fronted by Jean-Philip Grobler on guitar and Patti Beranek on keys, both of whom danced confidently throughout their entire set. However, I was letdown by their banter: Grobler mentioned twice that they liked being “back in the city.” They chalked this up to Chicago’s “food” and “general vibes”… lacking the specificity of band banter and storytelling that I enjoy at live shows. Nonetheless, Grobler and Beranek had obvious fans according to “Patti!” screams and the “AHHs” when Grobler would get really into a dance move. The two also happen to be married. This took center-stage when the two spoke about writing their recent album during Beranek’s pregnancy.
“Being pregnant made us think more about the world we live in,” Grobler said. He went on to talk about the album’s relation to his spiritual core and creating your own paradise in the messy times of the world we live in.
This sentiment is most evidently expressed in “Paradise is Waiting,” a song a bit too hokey in gospel refrains and glorified vocal solos for my tastes. However, “A Brighter Love,” is a more intricate echoing of the same view — the song’s 80’s synth riffs presented by the band’s nearly identical structure to LCD Soundsystem was the closest moment I had to making that lofty comparison. However, the band’s structure was the biggest reason for the resemblence, especially when Grobler coaxed out snaps and jumps from the crowd. Has James Murphy ever had to encourage dancing at the “Dance Yrself Clean” drop?
The lady front and center for St. Lucia’s set wore a Jonas Brothers Summer 2013 concert tee … it was an interestingly nostalgic choice. It also worked to encapsulate my thoughts on the show: maybe it’s time to retire our 2013 allegiances in order to support the acts taking more risks Now, Now.