On Saturday night, the air inside the Cedar Cultural Center was still. Hundreds of bodies squeezed in front of the stage to see Lucy Dacus, but a deliberate quiet filled the room.
The songwriter from Richmond, Virginia has built a loyal following around her introspective and heartbreakingly honest lyrics, from 2016’s No Burden and 2018’s Historian to the Phoebe Bridgers/Julien Baker collaboration boygenius. Lucy Dacus brought old favorites and new singles — including an unreleased song — to the Cedar for a sold-out show.
Sun June began the evening with a set of hazy Texas pop. “We’re a long way from home and very cold,” singer Laura Colwell told the audience, but the five-piece Austin-based band warmed up the Cedar with subtle and melodic songs.
Liza Anne took the stage next, for an incendiary performance of songs from her 2018 album Fine But Dying. The Nashville-based singer-songwriter showed off the album’s dynamic range with buzzing power chords and isolated vocal melodies. “It was sort of a record that I needed to write for myself,” she told the audience, whose songs openly confront mental health. Liza Anne and her bandmates blazed through the electric “Panic Attack,” in which she describes the sensations of living with panic disorder, and championed self-love in the recently-released “Devotion.”
The energy in the crowd began to vibrate as Lucy Dacus’s crew set the stage for her performance. As the lights dimmed, the songstress stepped onstage in a black jumpsuit holding an acoustic guitar. Dacus paused for a moment before beginning her first song, to take in the audience with a calm red-lipped smile. “I’m gonna do a song I wrote when I was sixteen,” she announced before playing a solo version of “Truth.”
Dacus’s drummer, bassist, and guitarist joined her onstage to perform “Addictions,” which she performed last year in The Current studio. She swapped the acoustic guitar for her Fender Telecaster, which she played in her signature style of open tuning.
The band ripped through songs from Historian, as well as a few of the songs from her ongoing series of holiday singles titled 2019. She serenaded the audience in both French and English with her pepped-up cover of “La Vie En Rose.” Dacus also reminded the crowd that representatives from the organization HeadCount were registering voters at a table next to the stage before “Yours & Mine.”
Dacus brought the volume down with “My Mother & I,” which she dedicated to all the Tauruses in the crowd. The song, which she released for Mother’s Day, describes the relationship between Dacus and her mother (who were both born in May).
The band showed off the heavier side of Dacus’s songwriting with the blistering “Timefighter.” The song built to a climax with a searing solo from guitarist Jacob Blizzard. While some of the night’s loudest moments came from guitar riffs or crash cymbals, others came from the unison of the crowd’s voices.
Dacus’s lyrics have a unique magic: each line contains enough emotion for a song of its own. A simple string of words hits you in the chest with enough force to knock you off your feet — or sometimes doesn’t hit you until weeks after you first hear it. Dacus gave the crowd permission to sing along to her songs. “It’s the greatest compliment you can give a songwriter,” she said. A choir of voices earnestly repeated the lyrics of “Night Shift” back to her — the same words meaning something different to each pair of eyes fixed on the stage.
Dacus closed her set with another solo performance, this time of an unreleased song. “This one’s tough, y’all,” she told the crowd before pausing to take a breath. In the song, Dacus accompanies a loved one to meet their abusive father after years apart. “I would kill him if you let me,” Dacus sang with a focused pain. “You don’t owe him shit even if he said you did.”
After enthusiastic applause, Dacus and Blizzard returned onstage to perform the haunting “Historian.” Dacus brought Liza Anne back to the stage to sing harmonies on her recently-released cover of Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.” Their voices blended over a wash of synthesizer and electronic drums. A disco ball overhead tossed flecks of light around the room.
For an artist whose career has quickly skyrocketed in the past two years, Lucy Dacus doesn’t seem to be in a rush — in fact, her calm demeanor has become her calling card. Between songs, she paused to take in the audience. Her eyes lingered over the faces in the crowd, and like her lyrics, made each one feel seen.
Colleen Cowie runs the blog Pass The Mic.
Lucy Dacus Setlist
Green Eyes, Red Face
La Vie En Rose
Yours & Mine
My Mother & I
I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore
In The Air Tonight