An unassuming 20-something whips off her glasses, grabs an electric guitar and becomes a rock star.
No, this is not a Clark Kent-esque superhero story — this is just the stage presence of Aly Spaltro, known as Lady Lamb in the music world. This past Saturday, the Maine native played her first headlining San Francisco show at the Rickshaw Stop in support of her new album After to a full, bustling venue. The crowd laughed, cried and had a damn good time as Lady Lamb kept us on our toes and swept us off our feet again and again with each and every song.
Not everyone in attendance was a longtime fan, unlike the couple behind me in the merch line who stopped Spaltro. As she slid through the crowd, the pair paid her a personal compliment and asserted their veteran fan status. After hearing Spaltro live, any self-respecting music lover would wish they had been able to do the same.
Lady Lamb’s live performance is the core of her music. The raw, youthful-with-an-old-soul quality of her lyrics and voice translates even more authentically to a live setting, especially in tracks such as “Crane Your Neck.” In this more than six-minute-long song, the young musician first captures our attention with calm, melodious vocals that showcase her weird and wonderful poetic lyrics. But the next thing you know, she’s screaming, “I’m as blue as blood before the blood goes red” with every ounce of emotion her body possesses, her voice cracking tragically and beautifully at the height of its power. Then she’s back to comfort us sweetly, crooning, “For a heart beats the best in a bed beside the one that it loves.”
This juxtaposition between powerful and sweet is truly the essence of Lady Lamb’s music. There’s the punchy, haunting “Bird Balloons,” where Spaltro’s vocals take on an edgy ferocity, backed with a prominent hard-rock guitar riff. Then there’s the gorgeous, melancholy “Sunday Shoes,” which Spaltro played solo, unlike the majority of her other songs, where she was backed by a drummer and bassist/keyboardist.
But even “Bird Balloons” doesn’t stay hard and fierce its entire duration — it also dips into moments of sparse instrumentation, where we can focus on her pretty melodies and thoughtful lyrics before shifting back to a grand, energetic chorus. Lady Lamb’s songs are anything but predictable.
The singer surprised the audience in particular with “Violet Clementine,” which began with shouted a capella vocals: “You build a nest of yellow yarn / you hope to God the yellow yarn is soft enough to break your fall / should you fall, should you fall,” followed by a daring banjo riff, setting the tone for a good ole folksy number. But all of a sudden, the bass kicked in and the audience was all swaying hips and nodding heads. The song goes all over the place, yet somehow every part fits perfectly. Listening to one of her songs is like unravelling a large ball of yarn — there are layers upon layers of instrumentation, profound lyrics, crazy bridges and all kinds of sonic shifts.
On stage, Lady Lamb came off as extremely honest and sweet. Although the singer is not prone to excessive stage banter — she was most eloquently able to express herself through singing — the words she did utter were precious and heartfelt. She declared that she felt that this show in San Francisco was a big moment for her that would lead to many other big moments, as it was the biggest turnout she had ever had for a West Coast show.
At one point in the show, she gazed at the crowd with a big smile on her face and commented on how cute everyone’s dancing was and how her heart was bursting with love for us — and with the beauty of her performance, the feeling was mutual. Playing both the lion and the lamb, Lady Lamb gave fans a night to never forget.
Contact Madeline Wells at [email protected].