Raising the bar in her first Philly performance since moving here, Lucy Dacus mesmerized Union Transfer at the first of two sold-out shows, with the crowd singing along, clapping in rhythm and remaining absolutely silent as she willed it.
Dacus and her four accomplices played all 11 songs from Home Video, one of the most well-crafted albums of 2021, with utter sophistication and undeniable substance. From “Triple Dog Dare” and “First Time” to “Christine” and “VBS” to “Going Going Gone” (which featured the whole ensemble up front, gathered around two microphones, as Dacus temporarily traded her revolving stash of guitars for a fan), she brought each lyric to life with keen details, capturing the situation objectively while imbuing it with genuine emotion that never crossed over into pathos.
This approach cut most deeply on “Thumbs,” a sketch of a meeting with a friend’s sketchy dad, and when the song ended, the audience seemed to exhale all at once. “Brando,” too, carried the sting of recognition, whether you identify with the slighted singer or the callow dude who calls her “cerebral” rather than “pretty,” or, even worse, you’ve lived long enough to see yourself in both.
The stellar material from Dacus’ third release was tastefully complemented by one song from her 2016 debut, No Burden (her breakthrough single, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore,” which the crowd clapped along like the beat had always been a part of them); three from 2018’s Historian (including spiky instant classic “Night Shift,” which closed the main set with heartwarming harmonies heard from every direction); and two mood-spanning covers (Edith Piaf’s glamorous “La Vie En Rose” and Regina Spektor’s gritty “Summer In The City”).
Ending the evening alone with a guitar, playing a new song she’s not yet ready to share with the whole world, Dacus held the audience in the palm of her hand, eager to follow her wherever she’s headed.
Shamir opened with deep well of witty, introspective lyrics and melodic alt-rock riffs for days, but it’s his distinctive falsetto—which can be devastatingly vulnerable on one song and off-the-charts sultry on the next—that makes him both so relatable and so aspirational. “I Can’t Breathe,” from 2018’s Resolution, was a clear highlight, but seeing the excitement he and his band brought to a new banger stoked hopes for a release next month.
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich