Lissie belts it out at Chicago's Lincoln Hall (1/22)

Whether we like it or not we’re in the age glam lady rock. While Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Ke$ha dominate the radio waves, it’s refreshing to know that a female artist can perform without the costume changes, wigs, and fireworks, and still sell out a show. Lissie Maurus, who goes by her first name, is (thank god they exist!) one of those artists. After getting sick and canceling a performance back in November, the Illinois native played to a sold out crowd at Lincoln Hall Saturday night.

A few things to know about Lissie: First, she can wail. She has been gifted with a rich and raspy voice of a fearless performer who gives it all she’s got. And second, she’s versatile. The stripped down nature of her opening song, “Wedding Bells” (a Hank William’s cover off her 2009 LP’ Why You Runnin’), highlights the nuanced vulnerability of her voice. Her next song, “Worried About,” demonstrated Lissie’s skill in collaborating with her band mates, Eric Sullivan (lead guitar), and Lewis Keller (kick drums and bass). Together their combination of pop sensibility and originality got the room moving. Third, you’d never know she was fighting a cold, as she admitted to the crowd–many of which attended her high school in Rock Island.

She continued on with songs like “Record Collector”, “Everywhere I Go”, and “Little Lovin'” (highlights off her debut album, Catching a Tiger) that masterly balance pop, folk, and vintage rock and are even more enjoyable live. Others, like “Cuckoo” and “In Sleep”, which on the album verge dangerously into that icky world of adult alternative are (surprisingly) saved by their live versions…which is a tribute to Lissie and the band’s kinetic energy on stage.

Photo by Meghan Brosnan

Watching and listening to her, I was reminded of Sheryl Crow’s first album, Tuesday Night Music Club. There was a lot of promise there… a midwestern girl with grit…  a collection of pop songs with an emotional underbelly. Like Crow, Lissie’s early songs are a window into, what looks to be, a successful future. Whether that future is in the vanilla world of easy listening (Crow) or a more soulfully authentic one has yet to be determined.

After about an hour of playing to a roaring crowd, Lissie left the stage. Her fans persuaded her back for an encore of “Oh Mississippi”, a bittersweet tribute to the river whose banks she was raised. She ended the night with a shot of tequila and a cover of Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness”, an awesome rendition that had the room screaming along. Those final songs, a polarizing combination of thoughtful intensity and exuberant boastfulness, are the perfect reflection of Lissie as an artist. It will be exciting to see where this road takes her and after Saturday’s performance I’ll definitely be along for the ride.

Wedding Bells
Worried About
Here Before
When I’m Alone
Record Collector
Everywhere I Go
In Sleep
Little Lovin’
Oh Mississippi
Pursuit of Happiness

Gallery by Meghan Brosnan

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