South African Jean-Philip Grobler, better known as St. Lucia, had made his fair share of appearances in the City of Angels prior to his two-night stand at El Rey last Tuesday and Wednesday. Having seen him open for Ellie Goulding and Two Door Cinema Club in 2013, I had already had my interest in the artist piqued and solidified, respectively, so when the announcement was made that he and his stellar live band would be making their rounds in LA as a headlining act, it was only natural that I’d find myself in the audience for one of the shows.
Opening the night was LA-based singer/songwriter Conway, who took the stage ready to rock in a crimson jumpsuit. With her raspy vocals and platinum locks, she thoroughly commanded the stage with her sassy sashays. Although I enjoyed the live rendition of “Big Talk,” she could benefit from a tad more experience on stage. Still, she has all the makings of a bona fide rock star, and I anticipate hearing more about her in the months to follow.
The excitement was palpable by the time Grobler and his bandmates took the stage a short while later. As the opening notes of “The Night Comes Again” filled the venue, so too did the enthusiastic cheers from the sold-out crowd. The band followed that up with a sublime rendition of “The Old House Is Gone,” and although crowd favorite “Elevate” had a sizable portion of the attendees singing along in tune, it was St. Lucia’s cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” that cemented their status as up-and-comers to watch.
They didn’t stop there, however. After closing their first set with “Too Close,” St. Lucia retook the stage to perform “September,” which had all the makings of being one of those truly magical live show moments that every seasoned music junkie like myself finds themselves searching for at every gig they attend. From the silky smooth buildup to the orchestral finish, “September” was, simply put, perfection. The album version, though delightful in its own way, does not do the live version justice. From there, St. Lucia concluded with the ethereal “When The Night,” the perfect cap to an already stunning evening.
Having previously witnessed St. Lucia performing for comparatively tepid crowds as an opening act, seeing them get the warm reception a band of their caliber rightly deserves was truly rewarding. From Grobler’s magnetic stage presence to his and his bandmates’ deliciously rich melodies, which transcend the already-lovely tracks from his debut, When the Night, St. Lucia was utterly spellbinding. I caught myself smiling more than a couple times throughout their set, and although it’s a tad early to call it, this could very well end up ranking in my top five sets for the year.
For more info: