Lizzy McAlpine unites and harmonizes through group therapy at The Troubadour

Boston-based folk-pop singer-songwriter Lizzy McAlpine delighted at the first of two sold-out nights at The Troubadour on Thursday. Her Five Seconds Flat, The Tour is the artist’s first-ever headlining stint and most every date has been sold out out across North America and Europe. McAlpine’s songs, voice and performance may remind listeners of two 90s female rockers ranging from the jazzy and mysterious elements of Fiona Apple and the fearless and unapologetic presence of Alanis Morissette, coupled with the warm and inviting cadence of Sara Bareilles. McAlpine is cornering a folk-pop sound that at least a dozen young starlets are trying to perfect but perhaps not in a way that seems as real and earnest. In addition to her famous friend and collaborator Finneas making a surprise visit, McAlpine had a number of other talents in the room offering their support including Lexi Jayde, Spencer Sutherland and others.

LA-based New Jersey singer-songwriter Carol Ades had the fortune of the opening slot, and she was perfect for the crowd who had already assembled, be it for McAlpine or Ades —or both. The crowd was loving her set as well, truth-telling about so many 20-something thoughts, worries, misconceptions and so much more, through the lens of a highly emotional young woman (and certainly the content was in the wheelhouse of McAlpine and her fanbase). The first of many pretty vocals was on “I Can’t Wait to Be British”. Prior to the next song, Ades asked the room, “Does anybody know what they are doing with their life? Some days I feel like I know everything and sometimes I feel like I know nothing”. She played her new song “26” (which she added is her current age), a lovely ballad that kicked up halfway through, with guitarist Vanessa Wheeler accompanying her. Ades added that it was the first tour she’s been on and performed “Sadtown USA” with Wheeler strumming the chords. In addition to humorous banter and a well-timed sneeze, Ades had wonderful runs and falsetto on a new song “I Wanna Be Special”, followed by the vibey 90s-leaning song “Sunny Disposition” she describes as being about the happy people who are dark and sad inside. Ades wrapped with her delicate yet lively, guitar-twinkling “Crying During Sex” as well as with heartbreak ballad “Unlearn Me”.

Blinding, pulsating spotlights flashed catching Lizzy McAlpine‘s silhouette. She wore a simple white long sleeve with a Tommy Hilfiger logo on the front, kicking off with “an ego thing” off her five seconds flat sophomore album released early this year, sounding both lovely and effortless. It seemed like the entire crowd was joining along to “Over-the-Ocean Call”, with the siren holding out the microphone to fans for the lyric “I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine” and the rockin’ performance continued with excellent bass from Will Easley.

The lights flashed and the tempo crashed to Max Flanders’ drums on “all my ghosts”, which McAlpine introduced as being “about Slurpies”. The crowd was of course singing along to the 7-Eleven ditty. “The next song is about ignoring red flags”, said McAlpine, standing at the mic, starting with an angelic production intro and later when the tune picks up with its punk-rock flavor she said “fuck him” and stuck both middle fingers up mid-song. She was back on the guitar for “doomsday”, one of the best of the set, with excellent guitars and the whole crowd singing along. The moody tune with its folk-rock, slightly outlaw vibe had the aforementioned experimental and unpredictability factor like that of a 90s “Criminal”-era Fiona Apple.

“This is crazy because it’s my first headline tour and I put out an album during Covid”, said McAlpine. She mentioned writing it in her bedroom in 2019 having never imagined fans singing them back years later. Lizzy McAlpine and her band performed “To the Mountains”, offering pure folk beauty on vocals and guitars and a spiritual, evergreen quality with guitarist Kelly Rosenthal harmonizing, as well as members of the audience. McAlpine introduced “called you again” as a song about “going back to the same person over again”, a tune that —like “To The Mountains” —will most certainly come alive more on future tours with live strings. The dynamics were spot-on during “ceilings” and fans held up paper hearts throughout the thrilling production and strong moments from the band.

Lizzy McAlpine played a new song called “emma”, written for her sister, a wonderful guitar ballad with a gentle folk quality, highlighting a falsetto that was both delicate and stunning. McAlpine evoked Sara Bareilles a bit with Rosenthal gently accompanying on guitar for “Where Do I Go”, with a light hum from fans singing along. It was that rare magaical moment you get in an intimate space like The Troubadour that needed to be bottled up. “Angelina” was delightful and beautiful, with McAlpine giving off slight Kacey Musgraves vibes while Rosenthal was celebrated with an amazing guitar moment.

“Apple Pie” was preceded with a mention that it was the “song that started everything”, with a lovely prayer-like vocal highlighting the lyric “home is where you are tonight” and gorgeous harmonies from a crowd of Angelenos offering possibly McAlpine’s best fan-supported background vocals while on tour. “This next song is very special, and we have a special guest”, said McAlpine. It was evident to the fans with a massive eruption that Finneas was in the house for the outstanding collaboration “hate to be lame” and the two delivered, harmonies and all. Another top moment was “erase me”, recorded with Jacob Collier. Easley was killing it again on the bass, McAlpine’s jazzy inflections were in full effect and The Troubadour was singing in unison to the gorgeous tune.

McAlpine left the stage briefly and the encore consisted of a new song that sounded a bit Fleetwood Mac and then there were echoes from the crowd on the infectious “Pancakes for Dinner”, with McAlpine giving the entirety of the 2nd chorus to her fans. The feel-good pop/rock track “orange show speedway” was a perfect nightcap, sort of a 90s nostalgia piece that wrapped with another rich falsetto for the song’s outro from McAlpine.

Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Nicole Ditt