Francis and the Lights at Bowery, though not last night.
The dancing — spastic, wacky, and chaotic — is reason enough to see the slick, funky pop band Francis and the Lights. Francis does so much of it that a stage like the one at the Bowery Ballroom almost seems like a prison. The man, clad tonight in all-black everything — even black Ray Bans — needs more space to do his thing. When his band broke into “For Days”, an ’80s-esque pop number from the singer’s recently released It’ll Be Better, Francis (that’s Francis Farewell Starlite, to you) broke into a mean double Dutch, hopping toward the front of the stage like a child on a playground.
Ever since Francis and the Lights featured as the opening act on Drake’s “Away From Home” tour last month — they also snagged the sole non-rap guest appearance on the rapper’s upcoming debut, Thank Me Later — more eyes and ears have been curious to find out just who and what the Wesleyan-birthed band is about. Francis was more than aware of this, performing like a man who had something to prove. His goal for the night seemed to be to keep the audience dancing along with him: even when the band broke into a ballad like “Night Watchman,” the tempo went up a couple of notches. When the frontman attempted newer material from It’ll Be Better, he focused more on the singing than his moves, as though he wanted the audience to come away with the newer songs ringing in their heads long after the show.
Of course, we haven’t even mentioned the actual lighting yet. For Francis, “the Lights” in his group name doesn’t refer to his fellow bandmates (great and talented as they are), but rather the actual lights on stage, which he uses to great effect. “Strawberries” was fittingly performed underneath a deep red glow, interrupted by blasts of white lights when he yelled “Strawberries!” on the song’s hook. During the guitar solo on the bridge of “My Goals,” Francis employed the best of his dancing, breaking into the robot beneath a mesmerizing strobe-light effect.
By the time he closed out his hour-long set with a sped-up version of the ballad “He Was a Good Friend,” from his debut album, Striking, the crowd was fully engrossed in Francis’s spectacle. At the end, people quietly sang songs (even the newer ones), wide-eyed, then added just a bit of a dance to their walks toward the exits.