There isn’t really a better way to describe the sound of bluesy rocker LP (yes, those are her real initials) than her own assessment: “It’s badass, but it’s also a little mushy.”
The rising star, a regular on the New York rock music scene for years, came to the House of Blues last Sunday to give Boston—or at least, a small but very enthusiastic audience—a taste of her awesome energy and guttural passion. LP’s performance had the sort of in-your-face, deep-seated, gritty impact that forcefully overwhelms even as it takes the audience gently by the hand. Ranging from driving bursts of rock and roll to pithy power ballads, her set was a study in extremes.
The artist’s critical reception has been just as fraught with contradictions. Critic Phil Ramone said, “She sings like an angel,” while the New York Press raved that she “sings like a bastard.” She captures all the heartfelt bravado of a power ballad. And the audience, watching her take over the stage with unapologetic force, can only hang on tight and think, “This is going to be one hell of a ride.”
Pretty much everyone agrees that this girl has got talent. Her voice—deep, raw, and sometimes verging on sweet—is what gives everything an emotional charge. It’s surprising that such a powerful sound can come out of such a little person. Trying to find a suitable comparison is a challenge. At times her voice takes on the fullness of Melissa Etheridge, at times the angsty adrenaline of Alanis Morisette or the quiet pensiveness of the new and improved Tiffany. And every now and then there is even a hint of Cyndi Lauper strangeness. It grates, it climbs, it answers to no one.
And it’s all about her; there isn’t much to be said of her backup vocalist, except that his howl-like yodels were a little ridiculous. LP’s most jarring contradiction lies in the fact that she doesn’t sound the way she looks. She opened the set with a blasting rock and roll number, “Love Somebody,” complete with a driving beat and a whole lot of attitude. The weird thing, though, was that despite the undeniable dynamism of her performance, LP didn’t exactly look like she was having a lot of fun up there, even banging her head and swinging the mic around. Maybe it was the tousled mane of curls, which obscured the entire top half of her face most of the time, but she conveyed the incredible energy of her voice while maintaining an expression as blank as a large Kleenex.
And the contradictions kept surfacing. Ambiguous and androgynous, LP’s image is something of a cross between the big-hair heroes of the ’80 and the leather-clad bikers that haunt seedy bars. And she is short. The fleeting glimpses of her face were startlingly aggressive. This is one scary chick, and she doesn’t give a damn.
Trying to figure her out became a little distracting even though the negligence of her appearance was probably designed to focus attention on her music, not her. If you just closed your eyes, or better yet, popped her new album into the player at home, the experience would be a lot less contradictory.
Not to say that it wasn’t still an enjoyable performance. Her music alone makes it all worth it. Highlights were her slower, quieter songs, such as the ballads “Coming Home” and “Heart-Shaped Scar.” The sweet plucking of the guitar during these songs was honest and vulnerable and LP’s voice became tremulous, earnest and full of a good kind of pain. The power of LP’s sound rescues the songs from complete mushiness. LP is unmanufactured, earthy and leather-clad, but still extremely marketable. Her lyrics express the kind of emotional ripeness that says this girl has lived through a thing or two. But we’ll never know for certain until LP stops hiding behind her shock of hair.
House of Blues