Lissie’s songs can cut like barbed wire, accentuated by powerhouse vocals capable of transcending bitterness into defiant release. Saturday afternoon’s ACL Fest set, however, was downright joyous, as the Illinois native boasted a smile as big as the Austin Ventures stage and a playful banter that made the festival setting almost intimate.
Starting with the six-minute opening ramp of “Little Lovin’” from 2010 debut Catch a Tiger, her quartet turned the sweet ballad into a fist-pumping anthem. New tune “Sleepwalking” followed in rousing fashion and “When I’m Alone” unloaded in a scatting rush.
Even her most fraught songs rose with bright, affirmative appeal, the bite still present behind the smile, but couched in polished chorus crescendos that revealed cuts like “They All Want You” capable of broad radio appeal. The Stevie Nicks pull of her sound emerged full force on “Further Away (Romance Police),” while live staple and “Shameless” b-side “Shroud” was ripped with an almost Pixies feel from Eric Sullivan’s crackling guitar as the singer barked into a storming rock fury.
Surprisingly, Lissie pulled little overall from new album Back to Forever, falling back instead on the older “Everywhere I Go” and “In Sleep” at the end of the set. Yet much of the crowd remained late, clearly waiting for her popular take on Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” an exceptional closer, but nonetheless suggesting Lissie still has more fans to win over with her own songwriting.
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