When the lights in Newport Music Hall dimmed Tuesday night, the room permeated with shrieks of excitement, nervousness and feelings of longing fulfilled. In the pitch black, a shadow appeared with no face visible yet — but everyone knows a musical hero when they see one, even by their outline. Lucy Dacus was Columbus’ very own musical hero for the night.
Before diving in with an oldie — “Trust” from her debut album, No Burden — she began with a disclaimer: her guitarist, Jacob Blizard, was out with COVID-19. Monday night’s performance in Chicago was the first without him, and the setlist now looks a little different from the beginning of the tour.
That’s why Dacus chose to start with “Trust,” an acoustic-driven track about getting over the past. Her usual opener, “Triple Dog Dare” from her latest album Home Video, thrives on its electric guitar solo like a human experiencing reciprocated love.
It wouldn’t have mattered regardless. She stood there, stoic, peacefully strumming her acoustic guitar. She sang metaphors about the fire burning away her overbearing thoughts and left the crowd mesmerized.
Attendees undoubtedly knew the words but let the maestro, her silky vocals at work, wholly transfix them. It was possibly the quietest three-and-a-half minutes ever offered within Newport Music Hall, and no one was complaining.
Afterward, she ripped into Home Video, and various members of Bartees Strange, her magical opener, filled the rest of the gaps left by Blizard. Dacus obliterated fan favorites like “Hot & Heavy” while leaving the venue in a state of utter tranquility with “Christine.”
She offered a pair of worthwhile covers — Regina Spektor’s “Summer in the City,” which she admittedly never performed the same way before the Chicago show, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” Nothing compared, however, to “Thumbs” and “Night Shift.”
“Thumbs” is a stripped-down track about Dacus helping her friend get through dinner with their abusive father. The live performance was incredibly raw. She inhaled a handful of deep breaths before beginning and somehow managed to escape without tears (unlike the crowd).
Dacus asked fans not to record this song on previous tours, and everyone remembered this time around. She thanked everyone afterward for knowing and being respectful.
“Night Shift,” her most popular and best track, was laced with ecstasy, not because of the sad subject matter but the catharsis that accompanied it. The frontman of Bartees Strange returned to shred the life out of his guitar while Dacus screamed about moving on and making amends with an ex, hoping the heartbreak one day leaves her body for good.
When she returned for her encore, she had two unreleased songs prepared and nicely asked the crowd not to record. She jokingly added that anyone caught videoing should be bullied. Not a full minute into one of the tracks, she abruptly stopped, pointed a finger toward the back of the pit and asked, “Are you recording?”
A pool of boos washed over the venue, but the culprit claimed they were taking a picture — to which Dacus said was fine and apologized profusely. She had to restart twice after laughing about the situation.
Dacus then set down her microphone and picked up her tea, along with a book gifted by a fan in the front. She shared her message of gratitude and love, and the energy of the crowd faded into nothingness. The night ended, but the love for the exiting woman had only grown tenfold.