show review

Lydia Loveless @ Rumba Cafe 3/1/14

Darren C. Demaree
Last night, only hours before the snow once again found Columbus, Ohio, we were treated to one final rocket crashing through the winter’s night sky, as Ohio’s own (both Coshocton and Columbus are currently claiming her as theirs) Lydia Loveless brought an incredible mixture of talent, raw pipes, and unassuming spectacle to The Rumba Café stage.

Brought there to promote her most recent album, Somewhere Else, Loveless played the whole new album as well as some older tracks from the Boy Crazy EP and her last full-length release, Indestructible Machine. Between tracks she traversed the whole spectrum of emotions; she was self-deprecating, sad, wistful, full of bits of old stories (never the whole story, of course), and completely comfortable jokes at the crowd’s, Cleveland’s, and her all-male, slightly-aged backing band’s expense. As soon as she would get a little quiet, all it would take would be a sip of whiskey or Pabst and a string of jokes would quell any of the nervous ticks she was displaying.

The show was incredible. If you know and like Loveless’ music, it was dazzling to see her throw elbows against the constraint of her impending fame and the expectations that often brings along with it. The music was tremendous but, then again, her music is something I’ve been a legitimate fan of for a few years now. This was my third Loveless show, and having spoken to her before, I root for her. She is an Ohio girl. I root for Ohio girls.

What stood out to me about last night’s show, while the crowd danced (sometimes on me, sometimes around me), was that I was watching a young performer in the sweet spot of her musical trajectory. Lydia has always seemed to be an incredibly anxious girl, using alcohol and her wicked sense of humor to deflect the attention she receives from music fans, from men, and from the local sense of ownership that leads to being on the covers of local papers. Through that her songwriting and performing achieves an agitated and ecstatic state that always appears to be moving through the paraphernalia of her life and what happens after that is either destruction or realization.

What happens next for her, after the headlining tour and opening up for the popular Old 97’s, will change a great deal the woman I saw belt those raucous songs last night. She will either fold herself into the rebel scenario she clung to during her teenage years or she will grasp fully who she is and what the expectations of that will be; this always leads to a far healthier but ultimately different artist either challenging or playing the role she’s been given as a character.

Last night was the last night we will see Lydia Loveless in her current, completely flawed and perfect state. From now on, whether she realizes it or not, things will be different. I think she wants things to be different, as most of her songs are re-examinations on change (romantic, familial, substances), but how she deals with that will dictate what versions of her we see next. I won’t stop listening either way, but this is the show I will always remember.