Just past a line of insurance providers, a few pawn shops, a low-cost optical storefront or two, and more than a few convenience stores – all vibrant with neon-colored window signs in Spanish, vying for attention – sits the Texas Theatre.
An old marquee invites passers-by to pay a little more attention, and perhaps be drawn in by the presence of a cult classic, a silver screen retrospective, or a quirky film festival. But, on an evening in early fall, the hidden secret of this unassuming Dallas cinema is on display, and the marquee proclaims that it is a night for live music.
There aren’t lines around the block, and the box office is unmanned, but it doesn’t take long to learn that it’s because the show is sold out, and a trip inside the doors reveals just how sold out the show is. At every turn inside the lobby, there are people. The bar is mixing everything from a vodka and soda to an honest-to-God Aviation, and the electricity is palpable.
The power comes from anticipating Lucius, a powerhouse singing duo, who are in town for a stop on their stripped-down tour, promoting their latest offering, “NUDES,” a bare-bones approach to their heartfelt songs, coyly promoted as “Live Nudes.”
The audience is ready. No one is stressed or complaining. No one is worried about their phone or their proximity to the stage. The sole focus of the evening (save for one diversion to be explored later) is the music. This is a concert in the best definition. And, with all due respect to “The Live Music Capital of the World,” the Dallas Bishop Arts district and Texas Theatre is giving your town a run for its money.
Opening the night, Cornelia Murr warmed up and charmed the crowd with her flawless appearance – clad in sequins that commanded the light and the attention of the seated theatre attendees – and her haunting vocal delivery. Few artists have such an elegant stage presence or delivery, and her set transitioned into the main attraction with seamless ease. The audience gave a warm reception to her set and most, if not all, were susceptible to her charms and more than one could be overheard speaking their intent to keep a wary eye on her career.
But, soon thereafter, into the pitch darkness of the vintage theatre strode the main attraction. And, if Cornelia’s high sweet voice was wistful and soothing, then these two ephemeral beings – Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, co-lead singers – were profoundly enchanting and definitively haunting from the moment they set foot on stage, to face one another and sing into a single microphone, as is their style. This is their ideal venue, full of good acoustics in front of a seated audience, and it maximizes the intimacy of the evening. All they need is one mic, two voices, along with a backing rhythm section and all in attendance are ready to applaud like every song is the most climactic ending at Cannes.
“It was that kind of night, where magic was within easy reach and hope soared with every chorus.”
Their cover of Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line,” a signature piece on the “NUDES” release, is both soulful and clean, as though the sacred and profane have come together to craft a song for all – a notion proven by the hushed singalong of the rapt audience that wanted to engage, but also give the band’s beauty a chance to fully bloom in their ears. By the time they made their way to radio-friendly “Turn It Around,” the audience was fully engaged, the song serving as the invitation to join the melancholy party and dive into all the brilliant feelings.
Speaking of engagements, there was a worthy distraction, mid-show, as a couple in the vaunted table-seating area at the front of the theatre found a life-changing question the evening looked to answer, while backed by the heavenly voices of Wolfe and Laessig, crooning their own poignant questions from “Don’t Just Sit There.” As the band asked, “Did you find love? Have you found love? Did you find love again?,” a young man asked his love to marry him. The songstresses stopped the show after their song was done, to draw attention to this union and celebrate love, as their entire set was intended to do. (Note: she said, “Yes.”)
It was that kind of night, where magic was within easy reach and hope soared with every chorus. “Woman,” the centerpiece of their album, closed the formal set, begging the crowd to “Meet me in the place of no goodbye,” assuring them, “I’ll be there, you can’t miss me.” It’s as fitting a message as any to an audience that had no desire to leave their seats or the spell the Dallas live music scene had cast on this particular evening.
By the time the night ended, with Lucius shyly covering the Disney classic, “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes,” the only wish most of the audience had was to stay at the Texas Theatre and listen to Lucius for as long as the world would allow.