What was originally advertised as an acoustic show turned out to be anything but as Lydia took the stage to a sold out crowd at Café Du Nord in San Francisco on Nov. 14. While Sweet Talker, the opening act, did play an entirely acoustic set (which included a lovely cover of “Hallelujah”), the headliners mixed things up.
Vocalist Leighton Antelman took the stage alone to play an acoustic rendition of their song “Sleep Well,” which turned out to be the only fully stripped down version of the night. After the rest of the band joined him onstage the energy in the room quickly rose.
The band played some fan favorites close to the album versions, songs like “This Is Twice Now” and “Hospital,” while others were played almost as complete alternate versions. These were typically newer tracks from the band’s catalogue like “Hailey” and “A Place Near The City.”
Their cult-like fan base was in top form throughout the night. There were unprompted sing-alongs during the entire set that were most audible during the varied versions of songs as the audience sang along to the original melodies. It was the sort of crowd participation bands dream of, but often fail to coax out, while playing live. Although it was the band’s only real single, “I Woke Up Near The Sea,” that drew out the loudest crowd response.
Since the band had just put the final touches on new music here in Sacramento the day of the show, they had one new song ready to go called “Knee Deep.” The song was a bit more guitar-heavy than some of their older work, but it was catchy and made for a good look into the music they’ve been working on.
The arrangement of the venue was both a blessing and a curse. About one-third of the floor was seated while the rest was standing room. Had both sets been fully acoustic, this set-up would have been just fine, but with all of the energy radiating from the stage it seemed that those seated began to get restless being confined to their chairs.
On the other hand, the sound in the building was nearly flawless. With only a few instances of minor microphone troubles during Sweet Talker’s set, everything was worked out quickly and without having to stop the show. The acoustics were great and the smaller size worked in both band’s favors.
Interview with Leighton Antelman, Lydia vocalist
Your music is normally pretty lush with layers. Why did you decide to do an entire tour of stripped down acoustic versions?
Leighton Antelman: It’s a little half and half, I think. People kind of think it’s going to be an acoustic show but we kind of do equally half full-band, and half kind of acoustic, mixed with keyboard or whatever it is. But we were finishing the record and we felt like we needed to, or not needed – wanted to do something for the fans before the year was out because our record isn’t going to come out until probably about February. So yeah, we just wanted to do something because Lydia fans are incredible, and we thought we would do just a short little run through here, California and Texas. And then we just put together a five song acoustic EP.
How are they translating so far?
It was different rehearsing for them. This is the first time we’ve sort of done the acoustic thing so it’s cool. It was different from the other rehearsals that we’ve done, but it was kind of cool exploring new ways of playing songs. Actually, the five songs on the acoustic EP that we have (for sale) tonight is five songs of our own that we kind of covered. So they’re different versions of the five songs that we have. We kind of covered our own songs, which is weird in a way but it turned out cool.
Are there any songs you’re starting to prefer over their full-band counterparts?
Kind of, to be honest. We did a slightly different version of a song called “Best Nights” off of “Paint It Golden,” the last record we put out and for whatever reason I came up with this weird little melody in the chorus on guitar. We put a lot of harmony to it and I just really like it. I’m pretty stoked on it. I even asked our keyboard player, which is kind of like the brainiac of the band – he is really good at programming and everything – to see if he could somehow fit that into our set somehow, but we’ll see what happens.
So you said before that you finished recording four hours ago?
Yeah, we drove straight here from Sacramento. We did these group chants because the guys picked me up. I was in Sacramento for a full week, they drove from Arizona to pick me up and we came here, so we were there for an hour and did some group chants and that was about four hours ago. So that was the very last thing and the record is done.
How would you say this one differs from the last four albums?
I would say, to be honest, it’s a little bit more structured. A lot of the old Lydia records, which are – it’s not like I have anything against them – they are a little bit more random. But the new one is a little bit more structured. That’s the only way I can say it. But I’m really excited about it. I really like it and I’ve had a lot of the songs in my head for so long. I always just love getting them out on paper and just give them out to the world and just let that go, not try to harp on it and people want to do whatever they want to do with them.