Review: SG Lewis at U Street Music Hall
When I arrived at U Street Music Hall on Saturday, September 7 around the time that DRAMA was wrapping up their opening set, I was surprised to find the place already almost completely full. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, considering the amount of hype surrounding British producer SG Lewis’s show. I settled in by U Hall’s back bar and waited.
The energy never seemed to flag as the crowd anticipated the beginning of the set, and only increased when Lewis and his band took to the stage promptly at 8:30. Deeply charismatic and laser-focused, he was in the zone from the start. I immediately noticed how much Lewis reacted to the crowd’s enthusiasm. Luckily, there was plenty of it. Most people were swaying to the music with their hands up. U Hall is at its best during shows like this — of course sold out shows are always great, in theory, but the experience is elevated when the crowd is so immersed in the music that they contribute a certain gravity to the show.
That feeling was palpable when, a few songs into the set, Lewis played “Better” and “Throwaway,” both of his collaborations with rising star Clairo, back to back. Layering Clairo’s voice with a live vocalist added a new layer to the songs.
These collaborations are two of Lewis’s most popular tracks, and two that show his crossover appeal. After graduating from DJ-ing on the U.K. club scene, Lewis became a singer-songwriter in his own right. His first album was released as three linked EPs: Dusk, Dark, and Dawn. Each is a high-concept sonic approach to a night out at the club. Eighteen tracks in total, this record explores mostly disco and electronic influences, but its catchy hooks lend themselves to nuanced electro-pop.
Vocally, Lewis absolutely takes cues from today’s male pop singers — he showed off quite the falsetto — but the shimmering, disco-inspired beats and driving synths backing his voice set him apart. He is a multi-talented and multi-focused performer, often playing the guitar, singing, and creating beats at the same time. It’s impressive, but it’s also just fun to watch him perform.
After “Dreaming,” a downtempo track whose studio version features Bruno Major, Lewis turned up the heat with “Hurting,” a mysterious track from Dark with thumping drum beat and sharp trills that got a lot of love from the audience. The set proceeded in this manner, contrasting super high energy songs with dreamy, introspective ones.
Near the end of the show, Lewis surprised the crowd by previewing some new tracks. Both were groovy, disco-influenced bops that seemed like a natural evolution of Dusk, Lewis’s first EP. The latter seemed to romanticize neverending nights out, imploring, “can’t we just stay for one more song?”
At one point, he admitted to the crowd that several years ago, while on tour as a DJ, he played at U Street Music Hall to a crowd of fifty people. Though Lewis is an undeniable ascendent talent in both writing and producing, that’s almost hard to believe. His performance at U Hall — as well as the rest of his sold-out east coast tour — leave no doubt that his crowds are going to keep growing exponentially.