As a longtime theater kid who originated a role in the Broadway smash Spring Awakening and later composed the musical Songbird, Lauren Pritchard knows how to set a scene.
When it came time to play her ‘60s soul-pop throwback ballad “I Don’t Wanna Have to Lie” on Thursday night (Nov. 1) at the Billboard Lounge in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the Tennessee-born singer-songwriter known as LOLO ordered a dude from the audience to park himself on the floor while she serenaded him from the edge of the stage.
The guy was there to play lapdog to LOLO’s vulnerable tough girl—a part she’s got on lock. LOLO combines the vocal bluster and control of a TV talent-show singer with the punky-country cool of a Jessica Lea Mayfield. There’s also some Miranda Lambert tomboy glamour and hints of Lana Del Rey edge, which crept in when that guy she plucked from the audience tried to wander back later for more attention.
“I love you so much, brother, but I’m in the middle of something up here,” LOLO told the wannabe scene stealer, who’d seemingly had too much to drink and definitely bitten off more than he could chew. LOLO’s stage is a sacred place where she makes the rules.
This was apparent from the opening number, “Heard It From a Friend,” a retro-modern soul-rock tune indicative of the sound this multi-faceted 28-year-old has arrived at after years in the business. LOLO played the verses cool before summoning some high-drama, rafter-reaching hurt on the choruses, where her guitarist and drummer underscored her lyrics (“When you gonna tell me you fucked me over?”) with some truly bruising rock ‘n’ roll.
Sufficiently warmed up, LOLO ditched the vintage fur coat she’d worn earlier in the evening while singing an exceptional “Star-Spangled Banner” before the Nets game. She then belted out another beast of a chorus on “The Devil’s Gone to Dinner” before going tastefully inspirational on “Shine,” a tough-love pep-talk for a friend in a bad place. Both songs appear on LOLO’s wonderfully titled 2016 sophomore album, In Loving Memory of When I Gave a Shit.
She ended the five-song set — the typical length for post-game shows at the Billboard Lounge — with “Not Gonna Let You Walk Away,” another winning collision of blues-soul classicism and modern pop. By the final bars, LOLO was lying on her back, offering a grand finale to an evening that had also seen a couple get engaged during the Nets game, then get a congrats from Bill Clinton, who was seated a few rows below. Following a former president isn’t easy, but LOLO’s performance proved she wasn’t phased.