Review: St. Lucia honors Orlando victims, lifts St. Petersburg's spirits at the State Theatre
Midway through St. Lucia’s concert Monday at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, singer Jean-Philip Grobler offered his condolences to anyone who knew victims of Sunday’s Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
“America’s an amazing, diverse, beautiful country,” said the native South African. “It’s difficult even for me to explain how much of a jump it is from South Africa to the States in terms of just what you can get, and the kinds of people that you can get. And it’s just sad to me that there are people out there who have an issue with what people are born to like, or who they are inside, and feel like they need to pick up a gun and shoot them.
“I guess our message to the world, if there is one — I don’t like to be too preachy — but it is that you can’t choose who you love, and that is actually a beautiful thing.”
A hopeful statement from an artist who’s all about uplift — in the lingering darkness hanging over Central Florida’s entertainment and nightlife scene, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Ticketholders were wanded down prior to entering the State for St. Lucia, Grobler’s acclaimed indie pop act making its local headlining debut, two years after a well-received and fondly recalled set at Tampa’s Big Guava Music Festival.
But the mood inside was by no means somber. Grobler and wife, St. Lucia multi-instrumentalist Patti Beranek, spent the day on the beach at Treasure Island and eating popsicles from the Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops, and they played like it, bringing propulsive energy and sun-kissed positivity to St. Pete.
Backed by fake cacti and a backdrop evoking Trumpian marble and gold, Grobler was all over the place starting with opener Rescue Me, dancing and tiptoeing the lip of the stage and climbing a pair of speaker towers on either side. Then he grabbed a guitar for a pair of swelling crowd favorites, Do You Remember? and a thrilling Closer Than This, both delivered with Grobler hoisting his axe high above his head, swiveling and swinging his body to and fro, spinning with limitless joy.
With his New Romantic croon and penchant for irresistible synthesizers, Grobler sounds like a main airlifted from the ’80s in a platinum-plated Delorean, particularly on the big, euphoric Dancing On Glass and The Winds of Change, both from St. Lucia’s new album Matter.
While Grobler and St. Lucia are effectively one and the same, his bandmates bring his songs to life with stereoscopic vision. Everyone but Grobler had some form of percussion at the ready, from drums to timbales to a vibraslap. Wait For Love, a bright and nifty bit of African-inspired pop, employed cowbells and bongos as it built to gleeful leap from Grobler at the end; while the entire band jnoined forces for an elaborate symphony of tropical percussion on home, clicking, clacking and tick-tick-ticking away.
After speaking about Orlando, Grobler played a pair of songs about love, the midtempo groove All Eyes On You and the ’70s-style slow jam Love Somebody. On the former, he asked the crowd to raise their lighters and phone lights “for those lives that were lost”; on the latter, he ventured into the audience, dancing with fans and singing into their phones before climbing back up onto the speakers.
Grobler played with passion and charisma all night — almost to a fault, as he nearly tripped over a fan and slipped into the pit while high-fiving fans during the exuberant, Erasure-like September. On several occasions — the explosive, feral Physical and propulsive Help Me Run Away — he leaped and tumbled so much he ended up flat on his back on the stage, shredding his guitar and spinning and kicking his way back to his feet, sweaty but unbroken.
“You know that I want to elevate,” his bandmates cooed as Grobler bounced around during anthemic closer Elevate. “Time to pick it up and celebrate.”
Elevation, celebration — it’s the only way St. Lucia knows how to do business. Florida needed that on Monday. It was actually a beautiful thing.
— Jay Cridlin