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Four things we loved about Lucius at First Unitarian Church

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia
Photograph: Chris Sikich

An icy chill was in the air on the first day of spring at the First Unitarian Church, but the harmonious warmth of Lucius came to the rescue. Playing in the church’s sanctuary, the five-piece led by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig put on a memorable, intimate acoustic show.

1. What can we say? Lucius was flat out superb.

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

The stripped-down set drew on the group’s new acoustic LP, Nudes, which features reinterpretations of some of their best works and a handful of new songs and covers. There was magic in the harmonies of Wolfe and Laessig, who were decked out in identical blonde bobs and matching green velvet robes. The soulful “Turn It Around” sounded as explosive as ever, while their sweet cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” fit right in with their gorgeous originals.

2. Nudes’ must-hear new track is “Neighbors.”

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

A song about fitting in and feeling alive, it’s especially haunting in a sacred space. Laessig and Wolfe sing “I always lock the door, ’cause you never know for sure/ Who your neighbors really are” in various contexts. But offered up in a church by performers who cherish their connection with the audience, as Wolfe shared in an impassioned speech toward the end of the evening, it cries out for listeners to form deeper connections with each other and our shared world. It’s a vital statement from a band that draws fans of all ages, including the teens and preteens in the front row.

3. The connection was palpable.

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

In almost complete darkness, save for lights at their feet, Lucius and their sound broke through the drafty concert hall to connect with a truly reverent crowd. There were sing-along moments and an almost tangible love that flowed between the stage and the sanctuary. The full band flashed joyous smiles and took hearty bows before leaving Wolfe and Laessig alone to sing “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” in a glorious, fitting sendoff.

4. Ethan Gruska’s opening set.

Ethan Gruska performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

The L.A.-based indie-pop artist kicked off the night with a set of tunes from his 2017 solo debut Slowmotionary, which sounded great in the high-ceilinged church. Joining Lucius at the start of their encore to contribute dynamic harmonies on “Dusty Trails,” Gruska proved himself worthy of sharing the stage with the night’s beloved headliners.

Ethan Gruska performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

 

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

 

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

 

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia

 

Lucius performs at First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia
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