X Ambassadors outshine the lights

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Performing for a small crowd: Sam Harris of the X Ambassadors performs at the Ready Room on Feb. 18. The band opened for Lights. Alanna Pachl / Contributor

On Wednesday, Feb.18, the Ready Room in the Grove  hosted the X Ambassadors, the musician Lights and maybe 60 excited concertgoers.  For those who haven’t been to the Ready Room, it’s a modest space with a full bar separated from the stage area by a partial wall.  It’s perfect for more intimate shows, but still features a lighting system that could easily find a home in a big-budget venue.

Opening for Lights, the X Ambassadors, an indie rock group of four, led by singer and front man Sam Harris, started the night off with gusto. They began with some of their more bass-heavy stuff, “Free and Lonely,” and “Love Songs Drug Songs,” to get the crowd hyped. Then, they seamlessly transitioned into their newer singles, like “Naked” and “Lowlife,” and culminated with possibly their most well known song, “Jungle,” which Jay-Z did a remix of last June.

I’ve got to say, I was very impressed. Harris’ voice resonated throughout the room with a raw power that immediately turned most of the room into groupies (well, that’s just an educated guess).  He also contributed some rhythm guitar and some hefty saxophone solos, not to mention his impeccable falsetto. Perhaps most importantly, his energy level could’ve put a power plant to shame.

Of course, the rest of the band played excellently as well:  Casey Harris (Sam’s brother) on keyboard, Noah Feldshuh on guitar and Adam Levin on the drums. I couldn’t help but dance along and I was sad to see them go. Thankfully, all of the new groupies and I can look forward to their new record, which will be released sometime this year.

Following the first half of the show, Lights (born Valerie Anne Poxleitner) a Canadian artist known for her techno-pop sound, took the stage.  It was fairly clear that maybe a third of the audience was there for the X Ambassadors and the other two-thirds for Lights.  Lights and her band began their set to a frenzied, intoxicated and very excited crowd of screaming people.

Her first song—and I would later learn, most of her songs—exemplified a techno beat with lots of beeps.  Lights’s voice did have power and a swooping range, and she held her own in both her loud, quick songs and her softer, slower ones, but it still felt generic to me—a nasalized, breathy sound, in which I couldn’t find any depth or individuality. I’d tell you what songs she sang, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell them apart;  I did tap my feet and sway, but it felt more obligatory than natural.

However, she did do an impressive job of engaging the audience—even taking some on-stage selfies with the crowd with a few fans’ cellphones—and she really seemed to be enjoying herself.

Overall,  I was just too distracted by the over-the-top light flashing and the momentary blindness that hit with every beam. Or perhaps, I was too bemused by the two clearly uncomfortable dudes bobbing up and down in synchronization beside me, or because I couldn’t understand a single word she sang, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

Lights and her three-member band played an hour long set before they left the stage.The night belonged clearly to the X Ambassadors and, no matter how flashy, Lights just couldn’t take that night away.