Lucius dazzles Metro audience

Lucius co-lead singer, Holly Laessig, gazes out into the audience during Lucius’ performance at the Metro on Oct. 8

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

In today’s music scene, artists benefit from having a certain gimmick that captures the audience’s attention before singing a single lyric, such as Katy Perry’s candy-based costumes or Pitbull’s white suits. Lucius, a quintet from Brooklyn, New York, has its own signature look, too, but the most substantial difference between Lucius and other artists is that it can back up its shtick by producing great music.

Lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, known for their identical blonde bobbed hair, overlapping tender harmonies and matching ‘60s-inspired outfits, front the band. Those unfamiliar with the group may see Lucius as a stylistic novelty act based on elaborate girl group nostalgia, but Lucius’ thrilling 90-minute set on Oct. 8 at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., could transform even the most critical of music fans into lifelong fanatics.

The Chicago show marked the special celebration of the band’s first anniversary of its acclaimed major debut album Wildewoman. To put it simply, Lucius knows how to put on a one-of-a-kind live performance. Complete with special surprise guests as well as a performance set in the middle of the crowd, the band left fans with their jaws dropped to the beer-stained floor of the Metro. It is rare when a band has the ability to sound even half as good as its  studio recordings, but Lucius manages to exceed any and all expectations with a sense of ease and sophistication all its own.

The band marched onto the stage with the confidence of an act seeming to have much more than three years of experience as a band, opening the much-anticipated show with a raucous rendition of its crowd-pleaser “Genevieve.” The band had the packed house bouncing from wall to wall with each pounding of Laessig and Wolfe’s signature single snare drum beats. With the brash guitar riffs and pulsating drum fills similar to that of fellow female rocker St. Vincent, Lucius had audience members up on their feet from the second it stepped on stage. As the song reached its chaotic climax, the room filled with chanting choruses and drum solos, creating atmospheric vibrations that bled down through the tower of speakers.

The compact theater made it easy for the band to communicate directly with its fans. 

The band expressed joy in returning to Chicago since last playing a memorable set at Lollapalooza in August and an after-show at Lincoln Hall—Wolfe said that performing in the city again was “a dream come true.” The lead singers did not only speak exclusively with the audience, though. They made sure to use the small venue to their advantage by incorporating audience sing-a-longs as Laessig and Wolfe stood atop the security fence like golden go-go-girl goddesses chanting before the voracious crowd.

Lucius’ ability to switch between multiple musical genres sets it apart from other fellow indie bands. Whether it is the synth-heavy ballad “How Loud Your Heart Gets” or the soulful rendition of “Go Home,” featuring  Chicago blues-style slide guitars, Lucius’ music is hard to pin down. This is one of the reasons the band is such a joy to watch—it has the ability to literally change its tune at the drop of a hat.

Lucius’ live shows are also excellent for the sheer wonder of what will happen next. During the summer, Laessig and Wolfe were hard at work, laying down backing vocals for the new Chicago-based band Tweedy, the father-son duo made up of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer. The relationship proved to be a success, seeing as Tweedy was happy to join the band on stage with an acoustic rendition of Wilco’s classic “Jesus, Etc.,” leaving audience members shrieking with astonishment. As Tweedy left the stage, the band brought up the younger Tweedy to play drums on the band’s most recognizable track, “Turn It Around.”

After exiting the stage, the band returned to the ferociously enthusiastic audience, treating them to an intimate encore in the middle of the audience, with both singers sharing a single retro microphone accompanied by an acoustic guitar. The group ended the powerhouse show with two quiet tracks, including the weepy acoustic “Two of Us on the Run” and an sing-along sweet-sounding cover of the classic Kinks song “Strangers.”

While a major aspect of Lucius’ persona is its distinctive style, there is no doubt after its Oct. 8 Metro performance that this band is the real deal. Many may come for the kitsch but they will stay for the supreme artistry.