Stepping out in a bright orange LP T-shirt, Lauren Ruth Ward graced the stage of the Fox Theater in Oakland for an empowering and entrancing performance. Opening the rescheduled March 10 date for operatic wonder LP’s “Heart to Mouth Tour,” the Baltimore bohemian queen played a stripped-down acoustic set featuring just her and her guitarist, Eduardo Rivera.
Bathed in humility, Ward opened up about her nerves that emerged as she performed in front of the expansive, sold-out crowd. She may have started out the night on the shy side, but as the show progressed, she overcame her worries as her natural stage presence took over to highlight what she’s capable of.
During the performance of “Staff Only,” Ward’s clean-yet-raspy vocal runs caught waves across the room as she soulfully sang with all the passion she could muster. She stayed in place for most of the song, but her confident stance alone was enough to command the audience to listen to her message.
This energy and passion were reinforced with “Sheet Stains,” as the sheer range of Ward’s vocals turned listeners all over the room into superfans. A line in the song asks Ward where her lover is, and to put herself in character for the performance, she made sure to adjust the lyrics to say, “She’s on tour,” in reference to Ward’s current position as an opener for her fiancée, LP.
Her flowing elephant pants moved freely as she made use of the ample stage space during “Blue Collar Sex Kitten.” While the song carried a little less energy without the accompaniment of powerful drums, her voice maintained all the necessary power as she hit every rapid line of lyrics with ease. Many singers would be out of breath after the first chorus, but Ward never failed to enunciate every word and keep her vocals balanced through the melodic bouncing.
“Valhalla” proved to be one of the highlights of the night — Ward’s organic style of artistry is hard to dismiss, especially when the vocalist used a creative technique to add a bouncing flair to her voice rather than relying on a machine to do the work for her. By just bouncing her hand over her mouth, she showed that there are many ways to experiment with sound without the addition of elaborate technology.
When she wasn’t impressing the crowd with her musical ability, Ward was channeling her inner “I Dream of Jeannie” spirit as she physically demonstrated the beats surging through her every move. Fluid dancing and compelling sensuality showed that Ward was in control of each aspect of her performance. Ward is surely a beautiful and talented performer, but it’s her unadulterated spunk and confidence that really make her stand out as an empowering and inspirational figure in the music industry.
Lyrics from her final performance of the evening, “I don’t wanna be with your man / I wanna be the man” solidified Ward’s status as a gutsy and dominant presence that audiences simply can’t ignore. As she previously spoke about in an interview with The Daily Californian in January, the last year has been fairly rocky for the self-proclaimed Lizard Queen. But based on Sunday’s performance, it’s abundantly clear that absolutely nothing can shake this Americana icon out of her element.