As a fan of all things synth and indie, the packed crowd at Newport Music Hall was amazed by the talented performance St. Lucia brought to Columbus on Tuesday.
South African-born and Brooklyn-based frontman Jean-Philip Grobler, along with vocalist and wife Patricia Beranek, drummer Dustin Kaufman, bassist Ross Clark and Nick Paul on keyboards and synthesizers brought to the music hall a thrilling performance full of energy and versatility.
On tour for the band’s latest album “Hyperion,” the show spoke volumes about the influences that went into this work. With help from producer Rob Kirwan, who’s worked with acts such as U2, Depeche Mode and Hozier, St. Lucia brought tracks that had elements of popular acts from Phil Collins and Michael Jackson, both of whom Grobler credits as major influences throughout his career.
The show gave fans of synth and electronic music a sense of intimacy in the personal and motivational performance, which was reinforced when Grobler took a moment to talk about the particular motivation for their song “Paradise is Waiting.”
“We know the world’s a s**tty place,” Grobler told a cheering crowd. “But the message that we wanted to impart to our son and to you is that you have to go and make your own paradise.”
It was a change in pace from the high energy that the first three songs built up for the audience. Opening the act with his track “Bigger,” Grobler and company set the stage for a whole evening of shifting patterns of rhythm and pacing, but what remained consistent was the mood of positivity each song carried.
The second song, “A Brighter Love,” was one of my favorites of the whole night. Keeping true to the spirit of the album, the song communicates a sense of hopeful persistence of keeping true to yourself despite the adversity that life throws at you and the world making you sometimes forget who you truly are.
Later tracks, such as “Gun,” really showcased the many talents that Grobler possesses as an artist. Swapping an electric guitar for a keyboard, Grobler and the rest of St. Lucia gave a performance that carried with it the full feeling of retro 80’s electronic works; one of synthesizers and laser lights shining through dark blue lights and a room of fog.
Other songs, such as “Full Moon Rising,” further demonstrated the versatility of Grobler as a leading man, opting for an acoustic guitar as he led the crowd into a dreamscape of mellow lights and smoke.
The opening act, indie rock group Now, Now, gave an astounding performance despite being affected by minor technical difficulties.
With vocals and guitar provided by a pink-haired Cacie Dalager, drums and backing vocals by Bradley Hale, and guitarist Jess Abbott, the trio won the hearts of the crowd with an improvised and unrehearsed number of songs they hadn’t played in months.
Powering through tracks such as “Lucie,” “Too,” “Arizona” and “SGL,” the trio rocked the Newport Music Hall, winning applause and cheers. As far as opening acts can go, the gratitude, sense of humor and humility the three displayed were a very human moment for everyone.
The opening act itself set the emotional backdrop of the night’s show at Newport. For me, it was obvious that the evening carried with it every intended sense of thoughtful emotional intimacy from St. Lucia in each of the diverse tracks that “Hyperion” has to offer.