Francis and the Lights is quite the one-man show.
I’ve been on this guy for five-plus years now, ever since discovering his It’ll Be Better record. He’s got this sound like if Peter Gabriel were to have come up in this era rather than decades ago.
I was pleasantly surprised when he popped up randomly during a showcase at the El Rey back in February. He performed all new songs and it had me wondering what he was up to.
In the time since, this dude has been everywhere. He was on “Real Friends,” a song from Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book mixtape. He soon after dropped a track “Friends” with Bon Iver that also features production from Kanye West and Cashmere Cat. Another Cashmere Cat collaboration came just last week, one that also features The Weeknd.
These are heavy-fucking-hitters he’s been working with. Yet Francis and the Lights still has a small following. At this Troubadour show Wednesday night, he wasn’t even the headliner. He still has less than 10,000 Twitter followers even though Kanye, Chance and others shared his track to their social media followings of millions.
I didn’t find out about this Troubadour gig until a few weeks before. I knew it was going to be a well-spent $15 and I turned out to be right.
Francis Starlite took the stage by himself, with someone manning a laptop at the back corner of the stage. It seemed as though he was playing all new material from his upcoming album, which I’m told is due to come out this month. He did the same at Justin Vernon of Bon Iver’s Eaux Claires Festival last month – which you can find the complete video of here.
What makes Francis so intriguing of a performer is the whole package. He’s got a great and unique singing voice, yes. But he also drops some of the most absurdly entertaining dance moves I’ve ever seen on stage. They sort of fit that “when the drugs hit” meme that you see.
In fact, I was half-convinced Francis was on ecstasy himself. He was sweating like crazy (due to the dancing I’m sure) but he also at one point said, “I feel good. Actually, I feel really good,” the same way someone who is on one would say.
Francis had full control over the crowd. There was a pretty solid turnout for a Wednesday night show devoid of any huge names on the bill. “How many of you had tickets to see me at the Troubadour?” Starlite asked at one point mid-song. A number of people cheered, including myself. “I’ll make it up to you,” Starlite sang as the hook of that same song in response. Those of us who had to wait years for a full set from Francis and the Lights, he made it worth the wait.
Francis broke into “Friends” near the end of his set, sharing the dance moves he did with Justin Vernon in the music video. He even made his way onto the floor of the Troubadour and got a couple people to dance around him towards the end. The melody of the song and the way Starlite’s vocals sound remind me of a cover of Sade’s “By Your Side” by GAYNGS.
The set came to a close with a song from that first record that I discovered Francis and the Lights through. “Get in the Car” is the final track from the record and a good way to close his set.
“Get in the car, you could be bigger than Madonna,” Starlite sings in one of the final verses. Drake would later borrow from this song on his track “Madonna” from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
Based on how entertained people seemed by the set, Francis and the Lights will make waves on his own when this new album drops. He’s got the respect of some of music’s heavy hitters, it only makes sense the rest of us follow suit.