X Ambassadors // Shine Under Bright Lights
by Tiffany Cuthrell
X Ambassadors and Lights electrified a packed house at the Intersection in Grand Rapids Tuesday night.
X Ambassadors have been touring for much of 2015 thus far. The band is comprised of two brothers; lead singer/guitarist Sam and keyboardist Casey Harris, as well as guitarist Noah Feldshuh and drummer Adam Levin.
Since their genesis in 2009, Ambassadors have added the important “X” to their name (for legal and individuality reasons), and generated an increasing wave of buzz.
The fast track for X Ambassadors began when Imagine Dragons frontman, Dan Reynolds heard XA’s song, “Unconsolable” on the radio in Norfolk, VA. Dan called friend and producer, Alex da Kid to hark (!) musical tidings, and the band was subsequently signed to Interscope/KIDinaKorner Records. The band then released two five-song EPs on KIDinaKorner’s label: “Love Songs, Drugs Songs” and “The Reason”.
…and along came “Jungle”, the infectious epic collaboration between X Ambassadors and British blues/rock musician, Jamie N Commons. “Jungle” has garnered attention from around the globe. It’s been covered by anyone from bands to buskers to rappers. It has been featured in video games, trailers for TV shows such as “Teen Wolf” and “Orange is the New Black”, a beats by Dre commercial, as well as the trailer for “Pitch Perfect 2”, to name a few. In addition, “Jungle” has also received a remix with verses from Jay-Z.
The Grand Rapids Venue was filled with anxious and excited lines of fans waiting for the 7 PM doors to open. Lines were stretching out the door, around the building, and even in different directions inside. Several “LIGHTS” shirts could be spotted throughout.
Beginning at 8, X Ambassadors took the stage to start off an energetic set. A few die hard fans in the front row were singing along to every song, but the otherwise new to XA crowd seemed completely taken by their passionate tunes. Throughout the eight songs, the audience was clapping and dancing along. Betwixt powerful vocals, the appropriately placed occasional saxophone, heavy rhythm and a soulful presentation, the band’s R&B and hip hop influences were blatantly apparent. XA kicked out both inspirational and anthemic jams with uplifting and reflective lyrics.
Lead singer, Sam Harris also announced that XA’s new album, “VHS”, will be dropping in June. The band played two tracks from the upcoming release called “Naked” and a duet with Jamie N Commons called “Lowlife”.
Naked’s lyric, “I ain’t no Ken and you ain’t no Barbie, ain’t none of my friends got perfect bodies” gained many a cheer from the crowd.
Ending with “Jungle”, X Ambassadors were joined onstage by the members of Lights, who were all clutching giant stuffed animals.
Lights later told the crowd, it was a “jungle party”, complete with gifts their bus driver regularly buys for Lights’ young daughter, Rocket. It’s no wonder these two bands were obviously close, as they have been touring together on and off for many years now.
Illuminated under a brightly lit up stage, Lights appeared under a glow that remained true to her name to begin her set.
Highlighting a tour of the same name, Lights is promoting her latest and third studio album, “Little Machines”, which was released last year.
The Canadian native has been touring with a new outlook on life and music. She’s been busy living in the moment. On “Little Machines”, Lights has forged a well-layered and beautifully vibed electronic album, filled with unique sounds (the crafting of which is the title’s namesake). The deep drum sound on the opening track, “Portal”, came from Lights drumming on her baby belly. Some of the songs on the album were even written and recorded in the Earthship community of Taos, New Mexico in a solar-powered studio.
With a drummer, keyboard player and guitarist, Lights delivered an ardent set, to the delight of the enamored crowd. During one song, Lights even accepted a drawing gift from a fan in the front row, which she placed upon her keyboard.
Lights’ strong and smooth voice echoed throughout the vast room, as she danced around with the array of colorful lights. At several points in the show, Lights would stop singing to hear the crowd serenade the lyrics back to her. “Louder!”, she’d exclaim.
After the show, both bands stuck around to meet and great anxious fans, as well as sign autographs and take photos.
Unfortunately, Tuesday was the last night of the X Ambassadors/Lights conjoining tour.
If you are looking to catch an upcoming show for either band, have no fear. Lights’ tour is continuing out west and into Canada throughout the coming months.
X Ambassadors will also be performing at the SXSW festival in Austin, in addition to having numerous dates around the country into June. They will be at The Loft with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness in Lansing on June 23rd.
X Ambassador’s recently released single, “Renegades” is already popping up on commercials. Evolving simultaneously with the outside perspective of Alex da Kid’s influence, X Ambassadors have been able to build an develop their sound into a genre-blending mold that is completely their own. There’s no telling what surprises and thrills the June release of “VHS” shall behold.