Review: Alex Lahey at U Street Music Hall
Within the first two songs that Australian rocker Alex Lahey played at U Street Music Hall last month, I realized that she and her band were too big for the stage — in the best possible way. She is an unstoppable force and undeniable talent, capable of crafting the most self-aware thoughts into catchy hooks and reaching diverse audiences in the process.
Lahey opened the set with “Am I Doing It Right?,” a single off of her 2019 release “The Best of Luck Club,” and it was clear that the crowd instantly vibed with her badass brand of pop punk. Her sound is nostalgic (and gives off major Courtney Barnett Energy) but her lyrics hone in on relatable elements of growing older. It’s impossible not to sing along to her anthemic pop choruses, whether she’s singing about her lackluster social calendar (“I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore”) or the pull of an ex who’s bad for her (“Awkward Exchange”).
Lahey finds grit as she leans into everyday discomfort, but she also elevates mundane occurrences to new heights, and causes for celebration. She introduced “I Want to Live With You,” the closing track of her new album, as a song she rarely plays but decided to share with the crowd at U Street Music Hall. The lyrics capture the mundane — having conversations across rooms, hosting dinner parties, hanging framed photos of a lover — but in such a way that evokes reverence.
The emotional peak of the night was “Unspoken History,” a more subdued track that found Lahey singing about making peace with loss over a piano and acoustic guitar. The crowd was hushed, allowing Lahey’s vocals to be front and center. This quiet didn’t last for too long, though; as she finished the song, her band rejoined her on stage to shift the energy once more.
Lahey has a strong DC fan base. The crowd was enthusiastic throughout the entire set, was familiar with the songs. A top moment of the show was the whole room shouting the whoa-oh-oh-oh chorus of “Awkward Exchange.” Not to mention, it was clear that Lahey loves DC, too — she cited Dangerously Delicious Pies as one of her favorite parts of the city, so she’s practically a local. The mutual appreciation was palpable, and made the evening all the more enjoyable.
After all of that, I think I can speak for the crowd when I say that none of us were expecting Lahey to pull out a saxophone. And yet, during “Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself,” she did, further highlighting her musicianship and the relentless energy that she had been approaching the whole set with.
She wrapped up the night with “Every Day’s the Weekend” and “I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself,” two staples in her catalogue, announcing that we only had “two more songs for us to lose [our] shit to before we get kicked out.” And, of course, we did just that.
Photos by Meredith Wohl.