By Erin Coulehan, Contributor, DC Music Live
The crowd didn’t stand to greet Christopher Owens on Sunday night when he played the 9:30 Club. They didn’t jump, nor dance, nor push forward in a powerful wave toward the stage if only to get that much closer to Owens ,who recently left the band Girls to pursue solo endeavors – but they did welcome him with warm applause as he took the stage to play the seated show which delivered a distinct degree of Renaissance romance to the normally hard-hitting and rocking venue.
Owens’ first solo album chronicles the love affair that took place during Girls’ first tour between him and a Frenchwoman named Lysandre, from which the album takes its name and suggests a Shakespearean type of love. After all, Lysander is the name of a would-be lover in A Midsummer Night’s Dream who is only allowed to be with his heart’s affection, Hermia, after fleeing from society to an enchanted forest and having a few run ins with some playful fairies. Unfortunately for Owens and his Lysandre, the two were separated, leaving Owens with a longing to return to the unfulfilled romance which is evident in the album’s soul-bearing lyrics and Sunday night’s performance.
Five instrumentalists and two (very animated) backup singers accompanied Owens on stage, and opened with “Lysandre’s Theme,” a dreamy Renaissance-style melody brought to life with a flute and classical guitar.
Self-doubt, romantic reminiscence and New York City are central themes to the albums with songs such as “Here We Go,” the soft ballad which announces “Tongue in my ear, hair in my mouth /I want you to figure me out/ Open up your arms tonight, New York City/And if your heart is broken/You’ll find fellowship with me/And if your ears are open/You’ll hear honesty from me, tonight.”
The songs from the album were interlaced by the waltzy “Lysandre’s Theme” which was played throughout the set, like the memory of a lover’s scent suddenly wafting back into consciousness after an extended absence.
Owens’ delicate performance featured pink flowers placed in front of his microphone on stage, and was an intimate presentation in self-reflection, as if reciting a journal, as he sang “Everywhere You Knew” which traces the lovers’ arc during through the course of one day of their mutual enchantment. “Just when I thought it was over I said, come sit on my lap/ You didn’t even ask me why I hadn’t tried to kiss you yet/ And I said that I wanted to yesterday/When you took me to your mother’s house/And we watched television on the couch/And then I bought a pack of cigarettes.” The song ended with silence as a seated Owens sang, “Saying goodbye the next day was so hard that I nearly cried/Later I did when I was boarding the plane, but it was alright/I knew that even if my plane went down/ I’d be just fine if I was thinking about/Falling in love with you on the first tour with my band.”
The second half of the set was far more light-hearted, though still as sincere, as Owens and his band played a series of 1960s and 1970s era folk-pop covers from Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel which elevated the mood of the crowd.
Owens ended the show with a playful toss of a tambourine (which he effortlessly caught), collected the jacket he’d removed for the second half of the set, and politely thanked the crowd before he left the stage, undoubtedly thinking about Lysandre and how one woman became his lodestar.