Live Review: Hotel Lights/Jennifer O’Connor

Hotel Lights/Jennifer O’Connor
Southpaw
Feb. 14, 2009
Review by David Chiu

The performances by indie pop/rock acts Hotel Lights and Jennifer O’Connor were the perfect cure for those who hated or despised Valentine’s Day. The songs by those two were refreshingly non-cheery material. Thus in some sense they made the disaffected feel somewhat hopeful.

Darren Jessee, the former drummer of Ben Folds Five, leads Hotel Lights. Accompanied by a keyboardist and guitarist, Jessee, on vocals, guitars and keyboards, played a very brief set that included tracks from his latest album, the very solid Firecracker People. The music was very lush- and romantic-sounding as it is also reflective certainly on songs like “Runaway Happy” and “Blue Always Finds Me.” The one exception to the subdued nature of the set list was the charming and poppy “Amelia Bright.”

The headliner, singer and guitarist Jennifer O’Connor, brought more of an electric rock sensibility to her performance. But certainly like Jessee, she also tackled matters of the heart. Her show drew a considerable amount of tracks from last year’s album Here With Me that began with the driving “Daylight Out,” followed by the poppy title track and others. With a drummer and bassist, O’Connor also played a couple of the standout tracks from Over the Mountain… such as “Exeter, Rhode Island” and “Century Estates”; and older tunes like my personal favorite “Sister” and “Driving Through.” O’Connor and Hotel Lights brought a satisfying down-to-earth capper to a Valentine’s Day evening for cynics of the holiday.

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