Ley Line & Nané Reopen Paramount Theatre with Spiritual Lift
Live music’s return to the downtown beacon felt familial
By Doug Freeman,
3:13PM, Mon. May 24, 2021
Friday night at the Paramount Theatre felt more like a family reunion than a show, an experience replaying at venues across Austin lately. The energy and joyfulness from the sold-out, half-capacity crowd matched that onstage from Ley Line and Nané, with chatter and hugs during the intermissions as enthusiastic as the response to the performances.
The uplifting tone of the evening set in early as both Ley Line and Daniel Sahad of Nané presented 10-minute films they completed during the past year. The shorts offered something of an origin story for both Austin acts, with the latter’s focusing on his family and bandmates as they grounded their swelling ambitions with a foundation of community support. Ley Line’s clip tracked the band’s 2017 journey across Brazil.
While Sahad’s lo-fi reel aptly moved with the emotion of a home movie, Ley Line’s screener played provocatively gorgeous, poignant scenes of nature and locals interwoven with the spiritual rush of their South Americana sound.
Their individual sets proved likewise cathartic.
Ley Line opened the evening with the massive Paramount stage allowing the local quartet’s harmonies to expand and breath out their percussive rhythmic pulse. Pulling from sophomore LP We Saw Blue, released at the end of 2020, the 40-minute set played out as a welcoming prayer, enveloping intoxicating rhythms and healing in the hypnotic swirl of their voices lilting in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English.
“To the Sky” and the stunning “Ciranda” swayed through the crowd. The Froncek sisters bookended the stage intensely with bass and percussion as Emilie Basez and Kate Robberson fronted with a deep meditative pull, eyes closed as their voices twined. The waterfall harmonies and whirlpool accompaniment of “Oxum” brought the crowd to its feet for a premature ovation, but the enchanting “We Saw Blue” settled back in to close the set with graceful peace.
If Ley Line focused the energy of the room, Nané harnessed it to blow out the Paramount. The leonine frontman emerged with his sixpiece immediately grooving, Sahad shuffling around the stage with moves that belied his towering figure. Riders Against the Storm’s Chaka emerged from the wings for an early highlight, dropping bars into the deep soul swagger of “Ladybird.”
Sahad’s range, from piercing trill to low growl, erupted against Ian Green’s guitar bluster and Latin percussion, at times even veering into heavy rock territory. “Much Too Much” struck oddly like Red Hot Chili Peppers. A surprising take on Cher’s “Believe” offered a stunning showcase of the frontman’s vocals.
Even as Sahad’s charisma dominates the stage and swells with a dynamic potential, the band often throws too much into the jam. Less proves more on the exceptional blast of the two lead singles from last year’s eponymous debut, the anxious “Blue Velvet” and blowout soul of “Always on My Mind.”
Ley Line joined Nané onstage to bolster the chorus of the latter, while “Blue Velvet” offered the perfect close to the night. Emphasizing the familial and community focus of the evening – at one point, Sahad even called his wonderfully excited mother to the stage to raucous applause – the singer’s sister joined in for the closer, which erupted the entire theater into a dance party.
Friday’s show didn’t feel just like a return to old times, but rather a propulsive drive into an entirely new energy awakening.