Anyone who goes to a Lavender Diamond show and doesn’t fall in love with the band’s lead singer, Becky Stark, must have a heart of hardest stone. I’m not necessarily talking about physical attraction. Stark is cute enough, in an indie-folky, Sufjan Stevens’-backing-band kind of way. But it’s two other of Stark’s traits that should win people over en masse: her winning positive spirit and her crystalline voice. Both were on sharp display on April 19, when Lavender Diamond played the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater, a small space better known as REDCAT that’s behind the iconic Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles.
Texas noiseniks Indian Jewelry opened. The band started its short, droning set with the behind-the-stage film screen blood red. As Erika Thrasher (whose last name is perfect for the sound the band plies) took over vocals, the screen changed to random, grainy videos. Later, the screen went blank again and strobe lights were set off, complementing even more the overall hypnotic effect of the band’s performance.
For its performance, Lavender Diamond was backed by a small chamber orchestra. Showy pianist Steve Gregoropoulos, decked out in an apple-red suit, had arranged the band’s music for the orchestra. Stark wore a vintage dress she said she’d just bought for the occasion. Her energy was infectious from the get-go; she gushed about how excited the band was to be playing with that particular backing and setting. Stark sometimes teeters on the edge of being overly precious, doing little pirouettes during the songs, jumping and clapping after each one, rhapsodizing through hippie-dippy worldviews. But she gets away with it because it all seems so innocently genuine. And, not to mention again, that voice.
That voice. It’s no joke. There isn’t any studio trickery on the band’s upcoming Matador full-length, Imagine Our Love, that makes it sound that good. It really is that good. Operatic. Gorgeous. Full of range. It stayed spot on as the band ran through songs mostly off the new album: “Garden Rose,” “Find a Way,” “I’ll Never Lie Again,” and the infectious first single, “Open Your Heart.” The band also played songs off 2005’s great Cavalry of Light EP, including “Rise in the Springtime” and “Please.”
Lavender Diamond closed with “Bring Me a Song,” the track off the album that, with its sparse instrumentation, most highlights Stark’s amazing pipes. When the audience responded with a standing ovation, Stark said the band would play one more song, even though they hadn’t rehearsed it with the orchestra. It was “You Broke My Heart,” off Cavalry, which slowly builds from simple piano plunking to grandiose triumph. As the song swelled, it was possible to believe that heart-on-sleeve, blindly beautiful optimism might just prevail over all the doom and gloom of our modern age.