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The first time I ever shot a show, a woman in the crowd turned to me during Lizzy’s opening set and said, “I bet she meditates; look how connected she is to herself. Everyone can see it, and that’s why they’re listening.” Six months later during her first tour as headliner, we’re all still listening.
Before McAlpine hits the stage on the eleventh stop of her Five Seconds Flat tour, Carol Ades of The Voice fame opens the show with a set full of songs about coming-of-age longing that are as vulnerable as her titles suggest: “Crying During Sex,” “Sadtown USA,” and “I Can’t Wait to be British.” As she introduces “26,” she asks if anyone at Metro has any clue what they’re doing and the adolescents in the front rows respond with spirited variations of, “hell no!” It’s a relatable sentiment, and Ades sings into it with gusto before giving way to McAlpine.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Lizzy McAlpine has soul. She displays an easy grace that comes with knowing you’re exactly where you need to be. This isn’t common for artists her age, who would rather lean into the comfort of self-deprecating humor when confronted with an audience this large. Instead, she sets the pace at Metro with an undemanding smile on her face, knowing when to push vocally or sit back and groove. And we stay present with her, wherever she goes.
She takes us through her prolific songwriting journey in the past two years, moving from the high energy bops of “An Ego Thing” and “All My Ghosts” to a bare voice and a guitar in new songs “Emma” (about her sister) and “Come Back Down” that somehow command the entire venue despite their acoustic simplicity. Songs from her first EP, Give Me a Minute, also make their appearances, and McAlpine pouts with shining eyes when the crowd sings the chorus of well-known “Apple Pie” back to her: “you guys this is so adorable I’m gonna cry.”
This is the closest thing to magic I know. This setup, on paper, shouldn’t be as powerful as it is – shouldn’t be as compelling when it’s just three people playing songs about missing each other: old versions of each other who could never get on the same page, physical bodies like ships in the night that pass each other by in space and time.
I look over at one of my oldest friends, who’s moved across the country but always makes time to get a meal when she’s in town or send me Lizzy’s songs on bad days. We sing, “some day we can be in the same city…home is wherever you are tonight” and mean it.
We aren’t the only ones. There are lovers holding hands during “Angelina,” friends lifting each other on piggyback to look closer during “Ceilings,” and a little girl with a homemade sign on the balcony that says, “ORANGE SHOW SPEEDWAY,” a request for which she enlists a guard with an eye-catching flashlight. McAlpine sees this and grins knowingly, “be patient.”
Before she closes her encore with the smile-inducing “Orange Show Speedway,” McAlpine steps back and addresses us directly: “I really appreciate you holding space for me and my art. It means a lot to me.” And as my friend and I dance in place and giggle to the end of the show, in the year where nothing is promised anymore, we mouth the lyrics to each other and try to bottle the joy of this moment: “I had it all at the Orange Show Speedway/Or someplace like that, it all looks the same/Everything changes, what a shame.”
YOU CAN FIND LIZZY MCALPINE AT:
YOU CAN FIND CAROL ADES AT: