CONCERT REVIEW: LAUREN MONROE at NYC City Winery: “Intimacy Is the Ultimate Musical Experience” (July 18th, 2023)

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By the indication of the packed house at NYC City Winery, Lauren has a steadily growing fan base with each show! She is the queen of empathy and hope, giving people songs about all that there is in life to enjoy. It’s a welcome change to the idealism outside of the venue walls. Hopefully, her message of resiliency will continue to spread as fans push it forward.

This is Lauren‘s third time playing this venue since March 2022; one could say that she has a residency here. With three albums’ Messages from Aphrodite [2022], Under the Wolf Moon [2021], and The Freedom Sessions [2008], under her belt, Lauren has a full armamentarium of songs to entertain her audience. Before the show, audience members chattered about what to expect tonight. Regardless of what she will play, the fans all agree she is worth the wait to see her. Three of the 15 songs on the set list were from her latest album, which has some of her most emotionally wrenching material.

When the show began, Lauren emerged from backstage with her band, including Dylan Rose [guitarist], Tammi Brown [keyboardist], Steve Uccello [bassist], Javier Torres [drums], and her husband, Rick Allen [drums], who has sold 100 million albums and toured the world over countless time with Def Leppard.

The stage was minimally adorned with amps, instruments, and an accordion-like curtain that frames the band so the audience could be fixated on the singular impact of a voice in close-up. The relatively straightforward presentation emphasized Lauren‘s lyrics with a detailed exploration of Americana. Songs that vibrate with positive energy and messages of love that only she can create. There was plenty of storytelling throughout the night, as Lauren wanted this show to be a beacon of hope while highlighting the talented musicians in her band.

It is fascinating to note that Rick, who just came off a European festival tour with Def Leppard performing in front of 50,000 a night on his electronic set, is now only a few feet away in this intimate setting. Regardless of the type of kit, music style, or the audience’s size, it’s always enjoyable to see him perform. His playing along with Javier‘s propelled the beat like “Big Love” and kept a smooth jazz-like touch for the more subtle songs like “When the Rain Comes.” He methodically kept perfect time but in a highly technical fashion. He is a master at serving the song with his unique execution.

In the final stretch of the show’s 90 minutes, the most emotionally compelling song of the night came when Lauren performed the brassy “Color of Snow.” It was written about a veteran with PTSD who was going to commit suicide, but his loving family and community intervened immediately to save him! An emotional story to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Stories in a song like this of a person’s journey, memories, desires, conflicts, and regret are charged with deep-seated emotion, long-view perspective, and mature wisdom. This is what makes Lauren‘s show such an entertaining experience; the feelings she’s processing in real-time and conveying them to the audience.

I spoke to Lauren before the show about how she conveys emotion through her lyrics. She shared, “It’s not about the music or technical expertise. It’s about how you feel while listening. It’s an exercise on being present in the moment from the beginning to the middle to the end.  My songs are from a healer’s point of view, not a songwriter’s.” Her songs espoused a simplicity that extended beyond the stripped-down structures and how one should approach life.

Her new single “Brave,” which she debuted, was a testament to that philosophy. She explained from the stage, “It’s about being brave and kind to ourselves while making peace with it.”

The night’s vocal highlight was a masterful rendition of Lucinda Williams‘ “Can’t Let Go,” a mid-tempo track about devoting oneself to true love, which Lauren seemed to be living each word. Two of the rockers that were played were a cover of Lenny Kravitz‘s “Always on the Run” and 70’s rocker “Love is Alive,” which got the crowd standing and dancing.

As the band steered their song to its final notes, Lauren graced the fans with one final song, “Calling All Angels” by Jane Siberry, and wished that an angel followed everyone home tonight to guide and protect them. A perfect close to a perfect show!

Lauren and Rick support first responders and veterans at their shows and through the Raven Drum Foundation. Please visit the site to see how you can help too.

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