Christopher Owens at Lincoln Hall 1/15/2013

We’re more than two weeks into the new year and I’ve only reviewed one new album. I’ve been keeping busy with some other things, so it says a lot about Christopher Owens solo debut, Lysandre, that I made time for it. Like many people I bought tickets to see his live show months before I’d really heard anything off the album, but I was excited for it nonetheless.

When I got to Lincoln Hall it was already packed with flannel and cardigans, but I was able to get a spot pretty close (stage right about four people deep). In my mind the perfect show would have been for him to come out and play Lysandre in full, then come back and play five or six Girls songs. From the crowd chatter I heard, hearing some Girls tunes took higher priority than the new songs.

About three songs in to the set, a girl standing a few feet from me said “This must be his new stuff.” The comment reminded me of the time I saw Islands last year and people stood in silence and confusion as they ripped through eight straight songs off A Sleep And A Forgetting, which apparently no one had heard yet but me (it was available to stream for weeks before the show). Lysandre has been streaming online for over a week, so if you call yourself a fan you should have at least checked it out by now.

The band did great justice to the musical elements of the album. Lincoln Hall has a great sound system and it was amazing to hear that recurring theme through their speakers. Owens seemed to be singing in a slightly lower register than he does on record, but that’s understandable. This was the first show of the North American tour, and it was obvious that they had been rehearsing quite a bit.

The audience clapped, mainly out of kindness as most of them didn’t know the songs. There was one moment, at the end of “Love Is In The Ear Of The Listener” when the audience was completely silent. No clapping or “wooooo!!!”s. The band didn’t miss a beat and went straight into the next song, after which they received great applause (I think people realized they messed up and wanted to make up for it).

As Lysandre came to a close the audience excitedly cheered, hoping to finally get some of that sweet Girls tuneage. Owens thanked the crowd and walked off stage with the rest of the band. The same girl I mentioned before yelled “You better come back and play some Girls songs! That’s why I came!!!” Well honey, the marquee says Christopher Owens, not Girls. And Christopher Owens could give a good goddam why you came.

When the band emerged from behind the curtain, they had a glimmer in their eyes like they knew that they nailed the album in full. Now it was time to let loose and have some fun. And that’s exactly what they did….in a set of covers that was a huge middle finger to those coming to hear Girls songs. It was also a great mix of 60’s folk/pop.

It started with Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” For the most part the crowd seemed into this one-I mean, how can you hate on a Cat Stevens cover? But then the next song was Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” and you could feel the energy changing in the room. Every huge kick during the “ly la ly” section of the song was line a dagger in the heart of those holding out hope for “Lust For Life.”

At this point Owens had not played lead guitar on a single song. That was really the only thing that disappointed me. Yeah, I wanted to hear some Girls songs like everyone else, but I actually loved the fact that he wasn’t playing them. For the last two songs he was seated, as he was for much of the show. “Let It Be Me” has been covered a billion times, but I think the version they did was based on The Everly Brothers take on the song. It was really beautiful, with a lot of help from Owens’ female backup singer.

The set ended with Owens taking his guitar off and only doing vocals on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” A perfect ending to the night. As the band was closing out the song, Owens stood up and started passing out roses to the audience. It was a sweet moment that brought the energy in the room back to full positivity before we all shuffled out.

All in all, Owens put on a really good show. He’s surrounded himself with some great musicians that can fully realize the beauty of Lysandre live. He’s only playing a few shows here before heading to Europe, but he’ll be back soon. I recommend you see him if you have the chance.

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