Date: June 29, 2022
Venue: Brooklyn Steel (Brooklyn – New York)
As the primary DJ and curator for our 24/7 global online radio broadcast, one of my biggest sources of frustration with the modern musical mainstream is this idea that only a tiny fraction of today’s best musicians enjoys the widespread exposure in the limelight that they rightfully deserve – despite making music that is hook-laden and commercially viable. Most of these talented musicians and starlets stay under the radar for no reason other than the fact that the ethic driving human curation among pop music’s most powerful gatekeepers has become overtly rooted in homogeneity and predictability. Many of them would have become household names if they had risen to prominence in the 70s, 80s, or 90s despite a sound that is firmly rooted in modernity while encompassing the classic spirit of yesteryear. Lotta Lindgren (aka Léon) has quickly risen to the top of this esteemed group of musicians. This Stockholm native seems to have mastered the art of distilling ethereal beauty from heartbreak and elevating it with her top-notch songwriting ethic and a raspy vocal aesthetic far beyond her years. While her single “Tired of talking” paved the way for her first taste of a real fanbase, it was her single “Falling” from her eponymous debut album that captured our attention and that of our listeners once we started featuring it on high-rotation on our radio broadcast. I considered the possibility that she might be a one tricky pony with this song but she has moved from one musical milestone to the next and never ceases to amaze. The pandemic, in particular, and the isolation and confusion that it hurled into her life has nourished her creative well and has led to two albums being released within the last two years. The aptly titled “Apart”( a nod to the feeling most of us felt as the Covid19 pandemic consumed every facet of our lives) and “Circles” brim with musical greatness and have become fodder for Leon’s first concert tour in years – the “Fade into a dream” tour. Unlike artists that go on tour immediately after an album release, Leon has given fans time to let the songs marinate in their heads and to nurture relationships with many of these songs. On June 29th, she performed at Brooklyn Steel in Brooklyn (New York). The element of surprise was that this pretty young lady was not just a vocal powerhouse but also a consummate performer on stage. To say she had fans eating out of the palm of her hand would be quite the understatement.
The concert venue, Brooklyn Steel, welcomed an audience that was predominantly female and young (in their 20s). Singer-songwriter Catie Turner, the opening act for the evening seemed to effortlessly engage with an audience that she knew was likely only interested in the main act of the evening. Her funny, mildly self-deprecating, and effervescent personality was infectious as she performed songs such as “Therapy” and “Step mom” (the closer for her set). Her ability to flit between her downbeat singer-songwriter avatar (with just her playing the guitar) and the more angsty and upbeat songs featuring a bass guitarist and drummer is noteworthy. She nurtured an excellent chemistry with the audience as she showcased her material while demonstrating an unadulterated reverence for Leon. She also performed a cover version of “Teenage dream” by Katy Perry which got the crowd singing along to every word. Between her set and that of Léon’s, as the official photographer paraded across the stage to capture the audience on video, the hit classic “Dancing Queen” by ABBA was played as the crowd sang their hearts out. It was a fitting moment for the evening to acknowledge the transcendental power of Sweden’s biggest musical export in advance of the main act (friendly reminder: She is Swedish) taking the stage. After all, Leon’s music has the necessary ingredients to transcend generational boundaries too.
Léon and her band emerged on stage at 9 pm. The stage setup proved that there is style in simplicity. Leon eschewed the typical bells and whistles used by artists with a goal of being theatrical. Instead, she leveraged a simple back-lit circular screen that captured her shadow as she performed making for a rather stunning visual. Leon opened with “Lost time” from her debut album. What followed was an evening of euphoric soul as the audience danced, sang, and even teared up momentarily during the most achingly beautiful moments of the concert. The band members added sonic embellishments that improved on the studio originals without distracting from or diluting the magic of the original incarnations of these songs. The drums on songs such as “Dancer” and “Look like that” gave the songs a punch without dominating the inherent beauty of the songs. The performance of “And it breaks my heart” ended with a stunning electric guitar solo featuring Leon dancing gracefully in front of her guitarist (Leon really would be great to dance with in a nightclub!). These are the most noteworthy examples of the band elevating the sound that fans are familiar with. In fact, it would serve Leon well to release a live album based on this concert tour. Fans would lap it up in a heartbeat. From my perspective, the evening’s most sublime moment involved the back-to-back performances of “Look like that” and “Falling” (the song that kindled our love affair with Leon’s music).
Despite being the diva that she is on stage, Léon brimmed with an appreciation for her fans and for their unwavering loyalty to her. In a world wherein an artist that lies outside the realm of repeated overexposure in the musical mainstream, this love and support, especially after a long touring hiatus, is priceless and should not be taken for granted. She expressed some of this to the audience by baring her soul about her own feelings of vulnerability and her personal challenges as she tried to navigate life living at home with her family after a breakup. In her introduction to “Wishful Thinking” she described it as a song to her friends who were making a transition to a new chapter of life through motherhood while she felt left behind. She also engaged with the audience by answering questions randomly yelled out at her with a coy and radiant smile throughout the evening.
Songs such as “You And I”, “Baby don’t talk”, “Surround me”, “Come home to me” and the heart-melting performance of “In a stranger’s arms” elicited some of the most emotional responses from the audience.
Her only noteworthy missed opportunity was the exclusion of the radio-worthy “Crazy/Stupid” from her album “Apart”. Our guest blogger Matt Brown has described this song as “an Adele-esque stomper bemoaning an ex with the gall to find new love” in his album review of “Apart”. One cannot help but think that Leon could have done so much more with this song – for starters, releasing it as a single and giving it the music video it deserves.
Léon’s performance stirred a cocktail of emotions as she won the hearts of the audience all over again. She represents a shining ray of hope in a music industry whose best years are long gone. My commercial instincts as a DJ and curator are seasoned with a tinge of sadness as I grapple with the realization that despite Leon being the full package as a popstar, she might be eclipsed by lesser artists that perform to larger audiences at significantly large venues. Her fans feel differently as they proudly treasure their best kept (but shared among other fans) secret. As the sole geriatric millennial in the audience, I could not help but feel optimistic as the very young crowd sang every word to every song. I have often written off this generation as lapping up anything (regardless of the mediocrity factor) that is overexposed to them. My dismissiveness towards this generation is undoubtedly misplaced. I had the privilege of being part of an audience that is clearly discerning and has impeccable taste in music. They are proof that the new generation is not tone deaf and that great art can and will permeate through the barriers that music’s most powerful gatekeepers have created. I believe Léon’s best years are still ahead of her. I cannot wait to see where her creative and commercial journey takes her next.
STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
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