St. Lucia elevates the Gargoyle audience with a memorable show

| Staff Writer

Courtesy of Kevin George

St. Lucia plays a free concert at the Gargoyle for the first Social Programming Board concert of the semester.

The first Gargoyle concert of the semester was its best in a long while as Social Programming Board booked St. Lucia for a free show the night of Friday, Feb. 21.

St. Lucia is the stage name of Jean-Philip Grobler, a South African musician who currently resides in Brooklyn. He tours with a band that consists of Nick Brown, Ross Clark, Nicky Paul and Patricia Beranek. St. Lucia is signed to Neon Gold Records, and some of the group’s labelmates include Passion Pit, CHVRCHES and Ellie Goulding.

The band’s brand of synth-pop is clearly ’80s-inspired, with Grobler listing Madonna and Peter Gabriel as two of his biggest influences. Grobler’s voice is eerily reminiscent of the famous song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from “The Breakfast Club,” albeit with the addition of a masterful falsetto. But St. Lucia’s sound is undeniably modern, with euphoric, uplifting soundscapes and catchy, universal lyrics.

The show began with “The Night Comes Again,” which also opens the band’s 2013 album “When the Night.” The crowd was enraptured from the start, dancing and singing along to the easy-to-pick-up choruses. Grobler dedicated “Wait For Love” to his home country of South Africa. Its bubbly, almost tropical beat captured the affection everyone has for his or her childhood home.

St. Lucia showed great confidence in playing the band’s biggest hit, “Elevate,” about halfway through the set. Grobler instructed the audience members to jump as high as they could, and jump they did. The band followed it up with its cover of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.” St. Lucia lists Fleetwood Mac as one of his inspirations, and nowhere was it clearer than in this cover, which featured the group’s sound engineer, Marie Kim, singing from the sound booth.

Grobler had a surprisingly dynamic stage presence, whether leading the Gargoyle in chants of “Don’t go, don’t go away” during “We Got It Wrong” or throwing himself around while shredding the guitar. All eyes were on Grobler, and his acrobatics, reminiscent of Mick Jagger, absolutely electrified the crowd. He wasn’t the only person on stage captivating the audience, though, as the drummer had an incredible drum solo that segued into my personal favorite song, “The Way You Remember Me.”

For the final song of the encore, St. Lucia chose “September,” a six-minute opus that begins with a simple synth beat, then layers on other beats and vocals. The song itself evokes other successful indie songs, with a beat like CHVRCHES’ “We Sink” and a bridge that soars like The Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.” It was a slow build to an exhilarating finish of a blissful show.

I’ve been to a few Gargoyle shows, including the very similar The Naked and Famous concert, but this was easily the best atmosphere. Whether it was the crowd interaction from Grobler, the delightful and quality music, or the free pizza and beverages, I suspect that if SPB continues to book such great bands and provide such delicious food, every Gargoyle show will be at capacity. I had more fun than I have ever had at W.I.L.D. I was left with only one thought at the end of the show: don’t go, don’t go away.