Nothing has truly felt real since the rude awakening COVID-19 brought the world in March 2020, but on Friday night in the tightly packed Saint Andrew’s Hall in Detroit, Lawrence reminded every attendee — from those gripping the barricade to those rounding out the back — what it’s like to be alive.
Even though the band has entered the second half of its fall Hotel TV Tour, not one of its 8 members seemed even the slightest bit fatigued. Co-vocalists Gracie and Clyde Lawrence continuously gifted the audience with runs that would be inconceivable had they not been witnessed live; saxophonists Jordan Cohen and Sumner Becker jumped off stage and came within inches of the crowd to pour themselves into their parts 18 songs into the set; trumpeter Marc Langer flexed his rapping chops during a verse originally performed by Jon Bellion; and all of them fed the crowd enough for leftovers.
For those few hours, nothing could go wrong. Imperfection was a foreign concept, and Lawrence only knew how to hit the right notes, how to engage the crowd via singalongs and how to make a cold November night feel like the beginning of summer. Credit is also due to the opener Nyla XO, an artist from Los Angeles whose angelic voice, dreamy soundscapes and magical band should be on everyone’s radar.
Lawrence curated a perfect blend of new and old tracks as well as covers with an accompanying heavy dose of nostalgia. While it tackled immediate classics from this year’s Hotel TV and tracks from its sophomore album such as “The Heartburn Song,” the soul-pop outfit spliced in covers from every imaginable genre, including NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me,” Sean Paul’s “Get Busy,” every elementary-schooler’s favorite “Cha Cha Slide” and the theme from the old Nickelodeon show Hey Arnold! The high energy never let up — not like anyone in that room wanted it to.
A highlight of the night was fan favorite, “Shot.” Taken from Lawrence’s debut album, Breakfast, the track is one of the many moments in the band’s discography in which Gracie unveils her Broadway-caliber vocals and leaves no survivors. Between the booming saxophones, firm drums and delectable harmonies, Gracie just about broke the sound barrier and left the jaw of every person within a mile radius on the floor. In Lawrence’s concluder, a cover of “Tomorrow” from Annie, she tore the original to shreds, landing notes that can hardly be perceived — let alone appreciated enough — by the human brain.
Before getting into “Thoughts from the ER (Silver Lining),” Clyde prefaced by sharing the background of the song, which addresses the sad reality of losing loved ones, something known all too well over the course of the pandemic. After it was revealed guitarist Jonny Koh lost his mother, someone who all of Lawrence said was a bright spot in their lives, the crowd washed a pool of love over Koh and cheered him on during his solo. A group of strangers all came together to make a difficult song to get through easier, and it was perfect.
The amazement kept coming and didn’t fade until fans shuffled back to their cars and it really set in that it was over. Even then, the unparalleled energy continued to percolate. Regardless of if you’ve ever heard a Lawrence song, or if you’ve ever even heard of the band, buy a ticket. The $20-ish is worth the irreplaceable two hours, the stupefying performances and absorbing the brilliance of a band that never gets old.