(Photograph taken by Chloe Newman)
It is Friday the 22nd of November at the O2 Forum, Kentish Town. Steve Lacy is making his final stop in London to bring his 2019 European tour to a close. There is a great deal of anticipation in the air; an anticipation that is relieved when he graces the stage in a lilac, two-piece ensemble. The smile on his face is infectious.
Steve Lacy began his set with a performance of “Only If”, the first song on his debut solo album “Apollo XXI”. His soulful vocals were beautifully reminiscent of the recorded version; a recurrent theme for the entire show. This was followed, as in the order of the album, by “Like Me”. He performed all twelve songs from the album. For me, particularly memorable performances included “Lay Me Down” where Lacy began with crowd participation, getting the crowd to sing out the “ooh” “ah” vocalisations that are repeated throughout the song before he started to sing. The song has a trance-like effect when listened to on its own. This was only intensified live, as Lacy embodied the very nature of the song, effortlessly uttering falsettos and taking the crowd to cloud nine with a riveting guitar solo. “Playground”, “Basement Jack” and “Guide” (falsettos on this were amazing) live were also a delight; once again, vocally speaking but also because of Steve Lacy’s prowess and dynamism on the stage (also echoed in his performance of the “Outro Freestyle”). His creative ad-libbing throughout each performance was also particularly enjoyable.
Another memorable moment was the dimming of the stage lights as “Amandla’s Interlude” played and filled the air with beautiful stillness. Lacy returned to the stage after a quick outfit change to perform “N-Side”, which of course had the entire crowd moving.
This was followed by the classic “C U Girl” and three songs from his 2017 demo; “Ryd”, “Some” and “Dark Red”. These songs are iconic. They belong to a body of work (Steve Lacy’s demo) which not only revealed Steve Lacy’s distinct sound and talent but also became a part of so many listener’s musical catalogues (evidenced by the crowd screaming out the lyrics verbatim). There was a magic to seeing such iconic songs live for the first time. Loving a song, having it on repeat and then seeing it performed well live is extremely satisfying.
I also appreciated how Steve Lacy encouraged people to be in the moment, from the sign at the entrance of the venue which discouraged mobile phone use to verbally telling members of the crowd to put their phones down. Whilst members of the audience (myself included) still took pictures and videos, it was nice to see this interspersed with moments of pure engagement with the music.
My final comment is the fact that there was something intensely inspirational about the evening. Steve Lacy is a 21-year-old, who sings, produces, plays the guitar extremely well and whose album has just been nominated for a Grammy (his third nomination). There is no doubt that his career trajectory can only go up from here and I look forward to witnessing it.