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Lake Street Dive ends the year in style

Citi Wang Centre, Boston, December 31, 2018

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Lake Street Dive may have been looking back when it offered that traditional New Year's song "Auld Lang Syne" as the new year rolled in. No matter which way the band looks - forwards or backwards - life is good.

For the second time in six weeks, Lake Street Dive was back home (the Brooklyn-based group formed at the local New England Conservatory in 2004), playing the gorgeous theatre, this time closing out the year in style.

While Lake Street Dive typically has been a musical polyglot, on this evening, there was a clear soulful bent, which showed up on their own songs along with covers.

The beauty of Lake Street Dive all started with powerhouse lead singer Rachael Davis, who has a beautifully expressive delivery. Her easy-going style served her well.

Ditto for the rest of the band - Mike "McDuck" Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass) and Mike Calabrese (drums). Olson lent more than a few good licks, while also elevating the songs on trumpet. A quartet of horns was on and off the stage, starting with the opening "Free Yourself Up," the title track of this year's full-length, and the one-two punch of "Shame Shame Shame and "Good Kisser" towards the end of the night.

But just when you had Lake Street Dive figured out, though, they went sideways with the rocking "Darryl" off the recent EP "Freak Yourself Out," songs written for "Free Yourself Up," but not recorded.

Lake Street Dive tossed in some curious covers, especially the Hall & Oates hit "Rich Girl." The group's reading was not more than a cover, and while a big hit, there are better songs out there.

Keyboardist Akie Bermiss assumed lead vocals on a surprising take of Shania Twain's "You're Still the One," not the kind of song one would expect Lake Street Dive to cover. But the soulfully seductive Bermiss took ownership of the song.

On the stellar side was the group's take on the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back," performed during the encore. Along with one of the openers, Emily King, helping out, this was a case where Lake Street Dive put its own spin on the chestnut, slowing the tempo down considerably.

And then there was the closing song of the night, "The Time of My Life." Yup, the hit from "Dirty Dancing" replete with dancers reenacting some of the dance moves from the syrupy movie. With Bermiss starting it off on vocals and Price taking over, one suspected that this was a case of the group just enjoying the moment. The horn section was back out to give a bit more punch, especially on trumpet.

Under normal circumstances, one might severely question the choice for a band like Lake Street Dive to go so mainstream, but hey, it was New Year's Eve. Time to have fun.

As if to underscore that point, confetti reigned from up above as the song and evening ended, marking the end of an excellent year for Lake Street Dive, and, who knows, maybe the beginning of another one.

Dietrich Strause, who more often can be found playing far smaller listening rooms, acquitted himself well in his opening stint with his songs veering more towards folk. Backed by a highly capable trio, Strause scored on such songs as "Jean Louise."

King, the middle act, has not enjoyed the most active career recording wise (she's out with a new disc in '19, her first in 4 years). While perhaps not the most engaging songs, King was in step with the headliner with her R&B style.