St. Lucia, otherwise known as Jean-Philip Grobler, blasted through The Independent last week, headlining two back-to-back, sold-out performances on Wednesday and Thursday. The South African native took the stage with his touring band of friends and fellow musicians for the first time since their 2013 appearance at Rickshaw Stop. Packing the nearly twice as large venue with a dance floor full of rain-soaked fans, the shows’ turn out followed suit with my expectations after catching their last Bay Area performance this past September.
Expanding their setlist to include material off of Grobler’s since-released, full-length debut When the Night, the show was almost like catching the finished product of which we were offered a mere sampling of sixth months prior. Inclusion of a visually immersive set design which illuminated a finely tuned stage show gave St. Lucia a performance that although grander in scale, still had the feel of an intimate showcase. This time around, apparently having seemingly less to prove, Grobler performed with the confidence of an industry professional, hitting simply another sold-out stop on a tour promoting his increasingly successful album. You know, no big deal …
Predominately playing tracks off When the Night, Grobler commanded the stage from the set’s opening notes all the way through to the second song of his encore. A rare performer in that his incredible range as a vocalist sounds better live than it does recorded, Grobler pretty much blew away the audience’s expectations immediately, breaking into a powerfully charged performance of “The Night Comes Again”. In keeping the energy high and crowd moving, St. Lucia proceeded to play a setlist crafted perfectly into seamless improvisational transitions, dancing through extended percussion sections and interludes of crowd participation. The highlight of the night came mid-set when Grobler executed lead singles “Elevate” and “All Eyes on You” (popularized on hit TV shows including the SF-based HBO series “Looking”) after one another, which blended perfectly into an outstanding cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”.
Grobler’s backing band boasted an impressive cast of musicians whose animated stage presence and individual styles were spotlighted by their musical leader over the evening. The chemistry amongst the group and the life they bring to the material is undeniable. At times you almost forget that the St. Lucia is a solo project, causing one to gain a new appreciation for Grobler’s intuition as an artist and his ability to pull his band into his vision.
Grobler has had a complete whirlwind of a career thus far and shows absolutely no sign of stopping his momentum as St. Lucia anytime soon. His artistic capacity, amplified by innovative decisions both in the studio and on tour, is something that naturally translates through his concert experience. Considering the sold-out doubleheader was set within the larger capacity of The Independent for this show, St. Lucia’s indie-pop footprint and fan base will undoubtedly continue to grow as they prepare to take on the festival circuit this summer. If there’s any chance for you to check them out at a local venue near you, do it now or forever wish you had the chance to catch them before they become the “new band” whose name you’ll hear everyone continuously butcher while singing their praises. Saynt-loo-sha!