Print

Lake Street Dive wins crowd with showy chops

Written by Scott Mervis on .

LakeIf you work in an office, with mature adults, you may have heard them freaking out about Lake Street Dive because they saw them on "Letterman" or "The Colbert Report or the star-studded Showtime "Inside Llewyn Davis" concert.

The novelty here is that Lake Street Dive puts a jazz singer trained at the New England Conservatory of Music in a bouncy pop/R&B format. The band formed there so they all have jazz chops to spare.

On the band's first trip through it played Club Cafe. On Saturday, Lake Street Dive sold out Mr. Smalls, a venue not perfectly suited to the style. LSD -- as they hashtag it -- ideally should be experienced in a fancier room, something like the old Balcony in Shadyside, with tables and cocktails.

Nonetheless, people seemed to be in good spirits Saturday, especially with frontwoman Rachael Price declaring it one of the biggest shows they've played.

With or without Lake Street Dive, Price is going to be a lot more famous than she is now, likely for long time, because there are a lot of women who can belt out this kind of stuff, but she has the raw ability and the training plus the look and now the backing of T-Bone Burnett. She sang the National Anthem next to Kevin Spacey in "House of Cards." Watch for a World Series or Super Bowl in her future.

Based on the record and the Smalls show, though, I'm still not totally sold on the band. Yes, Price can bring it live and her partners are versatile, able rock moderately or flip to straight-up acoustic jazz combo, with Mike Olson moving impressively from electric guitar to trumpet.

The downside for me is that Price, who draws comparisons to everyone from Amy Winehouse to Etta James, doesn't let many notes go without reminding you that she majored in jazz. It's awfully showy for these songs that often border on clunky, cliched and even a little annoying. And yet catchy! It's understandable then that a sold-out crowd would go wild for "You Go Down Smooth" (with her staccato handclaps) or the signature-changing "Seventeen" or Bonnie Raitt-ish "Bad Self Portraits" (title track of the new album).

Late in the set, Lake Street usually does The Jackson Five "I Want You Back" cover that helped break the band on YouTube. Saturday night, it shelved that for a smoky "Let Me Roll It" from the McCartney catalog.

If all goes well, expect Lake Street Dive in a bigger venue next time, likely the Byham, where the band's talents can be enjoyed in a more relaxed setting.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.