Lawrence’s shows have long been nothing if not full of feeling and passion. The soul-pop sibling sensations Gracie and Clyde Lawrence always seem to suffuse the band’s live performances with equal parts raw power and stage presence, dating back to the days before they became Jon Bellion’s understudies on Beautiful Minds Records.
But Gracie, Clyde and their bandmates brought a whole different dimension of joy, vulnerability and maturity to their early October return to The Novo in downtown Los Angeles.
The eight-piece ensemble had every reason to appear a different outfit this time, despite bringing back its familiar lineup of Jordan Cohen and Sumner Becker on saxophone, Marc Langer on trumpet, Jonny Koh on guitar, Michael Karsh on bass and Sam Askin on drums, surrounding Gracie on vocals and Clyde on the mic and keyboard
Time alone has a way of aging and shaping a young group like Lawrence. That the 18-month break between the band’s stints at The Novo was caused by a pandemic added agony and angst to the amalgam of emotions that emanate from the coming-of-age tales within their songs. The virus hit too close to home for the group, with Jonny’s mother, Carol, succumbing to COVID-19. Though the song “Thoughts From the ER (Silver Lining)” wasn’t originally written for her, on this night—the first that Lawrence had played publicly since the coronavirus truly changed the world as we know it—it was dedicated to Carol’s memory.
But amid the many reminders of sadness, sorrow and loss, Lawrence showed no shortage of joy and excitement to be back on stage. Beyond the hiatus itself, the band had a new album, 2021’s Hotel TV, to showcase for the first time. As expected, they drew heavily from their latest collection, with more than a few possibilities to become long-term staples of Lawrence’s core set.
There were Clyde’s latest odes to dating woes with “Casualty” and “Jet Lag”, and Gracie’s signature digs at societal norms in “It’s Not All About You” and “Freckles”. As the new album’s name would suggest, they brought plenty of entertainment nostalgia to bear, as well, from the “tubular” set pieces to dropping the Hey Arnold theme as an introduction to “The Heartburn Song”.
And that’s to say nothing of singer-songwriter Jacob Collier’s cameo on keys, or Marc Langer’s turn on the mic as Jon Bellion’s stand-in on “False Alarm.”
Though Lawrence has clearly come quite a ways courtesy of the cultural cocoon of pandemic lockdowns, that hardly means they’ve left the central appeal of their soul-pop style behind. On the contrary, standards like “Probably Up”, “More”, “Make a Move”, and “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?” can now count on the company of instant classics like “Weather” and “Don’t Lose Sight”. Likewise, Lawrence’s well-established penchant for putting their own spin on hits from their formative years now includes NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” in addition to Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.”
For all the heartache and pain that Lawrence brought to bear from the difficulties of the past year-and-a-half, they still managed to end on an optimistic note. But where “Tomorrow” from the Broadway classic Annie might otherwise be delivered with the hopeful innocence of childhood, Gracie and the group lent it just enough force to create a fitting finale for a band and an audience that, clearly, yearned to pick up where they had all left off back in March of 2020.
Below, check out a gallery of images from the show courtesy of photographer Josh Martin. Lawrence continues their Hotel TV Tour Pt. 1 on Wednesday in Portland, OR. Head to the band’s website for tickets and more tour information.
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