Photo: Max Wagner via Sacks & Co.

Lucius Rock San Francisco with Heavenly Harmonies

It’s like Lucius’ voices are the honey on the biscuit of the audience’s collective soul and the effect is truly uplifting. Their songs shimmered at the Fillmore.

Second Nature
Mom + Pop
8 April 2022

It’s a chilly Wednesday night in San Francisco here on 30 November, but the dance floor at the Fillmore is sure to heat up with Lucius back in the City by the Bay. It was a picture-perfect warm sunny day in Golden Gate Park on 1 October when Lucius won over a large audience at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival with the angelic harmonies of singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig. The women announced that they had a show booked for this date at the Fillmore, so it’s no surprise that the legendary concert hall is packed by the time they hit the stage.

Lucius burst onto the music scene with 2014’s debut album Wildewoman and have won some high-profile fans, as evidenced by their collaborations with rock stars like Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, and Lukas Nelson. They also toured with Roger Waters in 2017 and teamed up with jam-rock buzz band Goose earlier this summer, demonstrating broad generational appeal. Lucius are riding exceptionally high in 2022 thanks to this year’s Second Nature album, which is full of infectious sonic gems.

Jessica Lea Mayfield is called in as a pinch-hitter when the initially scheduled opening act takes ill and does a solid job rocking a guitar/drum duo with her husband on the skins. It’s still chilly in the auditorium during her set as the Fillmore takes some time to fill in, but the Ohio native is undoubtedly used to that. It seems like she hasn’t visited the Bay Area in many years, but she’s still got her unique blend of a sweet voice over a gritty guitar, generating a bluesy indie rock vibe that goes over well here.

The temperature rises quickly when Lucius hit the stage with the two bangers that open their new album as they rock the danceable grooves of “Second Nature” and “Next to Normal” to get the party started. Wolfe and Laessig have a compelling, charismatic presence that commands the stage from the start, the lights are dialed in, and the audience is fired up and ready to go. 

The vibe deepens in a big way with the soaring harmonies of “Tempest” from Wildewoman, as the ladies’ angelic voices take on a mesmerizing quality that lights up the room. When they sing, “You gotta believe me when I say I know, (Gotta work it out, it out), You aren’t riding on this wave alone,” it feels like the band and audience are coming together in a kind of harmonic convergence that is rare to reach so early in a set. Guitarist Peter Lalish and drummer Dan Molad do a great job of helping the ladies reproduce the high-end production value of their studio recordings, as the songs shimmer with a sparkling quality here at the Fillmore.

“Promises” from the new album keeps the high energy vibe flowing in a big way with another melodic winner as the vocal harmonies soar over groovy counterpoints, building to a big crescendo where lyrics about “promises we can believe in” sound like a chorus of angels. It’s like these women’s voices are the honey on the biscuit of the audience’s collective soul, and the effect is genuinely uplifting. The show starts to seem almost like an arena rock concert because the band is on, the crowd is lit, and the energy is palpable.

The anthemic sound of “How Loud Your Heart Gets” strikes another vibrant chord as Lucius continue to deliver stellar sonic landscapes on each song. The new power ballad “24” hits the soul in the feels, as Wolfe and Laessig sing about “looking for a silver lining” amidst the fallout of a relationship that sounds like it isn’t panning out. There’s a similar heartfelt catharsis to be had on” The Man I’ll Never Find”, which reaches a soaring crescendo toward the end that wins another big cheer from the adoring audience.

Wolfe thanks the crowd, saying, “Without you, there’s no us… because that’s how it works,” alluding to the classic feedback loop between a band and their fans that has long been a key aspect of the Fillmore’s timeless place in rock history. She notes that “it’s been a strange couple years”, but the next song was written on the road before that, “and then you’re stuck at home”. The intro leads into the Americana-tinged “Dusty Trails” from 2016’s Good Grief album, a big winner as Wolfe and Laessig sing out a heartfelt ode to the road: “Dusty trails can lead you to a golden road, I’ve been told,” they sing, as the audience is mesmerized again by the dynamic duo’s enchanting harmonies. The song continues to build as they explore a theme of living on the edge halfway between heaven and misery, with an electrifying cheer from the crowd at the peak of the chorus that rings out with a spine-tingling effect.

“Heartbursts” cranks the dance floor energy back up with a shimmering power pop sound and swirling lights as the ladies sing how “it’s better to give your heart than never give at all… risking it all just to live for something”. The pulsing beats and high energy vibes keep flowing on “LSD” as these enchanting sirens sing of hallucinating when they can’t sleep over a “love so deep”, with a groovy tease on Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody”. The set concludes in climactic fashion as the majestic chorus of “Supernatural Girl” rings out with a multi-dimensional sound that feels like a Lucius theme song, with a downright heavenly vibe of angelic bestowal to close out the set in transcendent fashion.

The encore sequence opens with Lucius asking everyone to sit down as they come out onto the dance floor in dazzling mirrorball dresses to sing the acoustic style “Two of Us on the Run”. It’s a heartfelt indie-pop gem with an underlying bluesy vibe that invokes a mystical journey as it builds to another big crescendo that melts hearts across the room. “Turn It Around” cranks things back up with a funky vibe that gives way to a big groovy psychedelic jam on Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” to close the show with an energetic blast of 1970s disco funk. 

When the lights come up, it feels like a magical evening in the presence of otherworldly beings from a higher dimension. It also feels extra special to see Lucius at the Fillmore, as they would seem to be on track to playing larger theater venues and beyond next time.