There are recording artists and then there are those whose artistry come to life on stage. Lissie is the latter. I got turned on to the 28-year-old singer-songwriter from Rock Island, Ill., by a fellow music lover who suggested I check her out. Being the hot new artist junkie that I am, I promptly downloaded her 2009 EP Why You Runnin’ and 2010 LP Catching a Tiger. I liked her immediately, but it was a far cry from my typical new artist hysteria. Sometimes seeing the real deal on stage fuels the fan in me. After seeing your show at Hiro Ballroom, Lissie, I’m a fan.
She stepped on stage with a guitarist and drummer who you’d swear just stepped out of one of those caveman commercials for Geico. Spitting images. Lissie wore a simple pair of jeans (with her CMJ music festival credentials attached), a big, loose, plain white T, some her blond locks loosely braided and the rest perfectly disheveled. She opened with the poignant and folksy “Wedding Bells.” Right off the bat, I was struck by how her pitch-perfect voice captured the undivided attention of everyone inside Hiro. She sang flawlessly and effortlessly. I love it when a room respects an artist so much its inhabitants just shut up and listen. The room was still.
Lissie went on to perform a solid set of songs off her debut record. I really liked “When I’m Alone,” “Loosen the Knot,” and the gorgeous “Everywhere I Go.” There’s a great video of Lissie singing this song with Ellie Goulding on her Web site. Good Stuff. She also sang a beautiful folk song called “Bully.” It reminded me of all the bullying of young gay men and women going on in America lately. It reminded Lissie as well. She gave her own “It Gets Better” speech and talked about how her lighthearted song “Cuckoo” conveys that time in high school when you’re not able to see your future, and how you’re naively fooled into thinking that who were then is who you’ll forever be. Of course that’s not true. It does get better. I captured her story and song on video. It’s sort of awesome, and I love the flamboyance of her guitar strumming. I also captured her performance of “Oh Mississippi,” which she dedicated to her aunt who recently died. It’s about her growing up in Rock Island on the banks of the famous river that divides our country into East and West. Check it out after “Cuckoo.”