L CON at Cinecycle, Saturday, November 24. Rating: NNNN
Ordinarily, we'd advise vocalists against stretching themselves thin by concurrently fronting multiple bands. But in the case of Lisa Conway, it seems like her work with acts like Del Bel, the Owle Bird, and Chrome and the Ice Queen has helped her build a loyal following who are interested in checking out anything she's involved in. On the Ballads Project, her new solo album as L Con, Conway wraps her silky voice around big dramatic string section arrangements that perfectly suit her vibe.
Bringing these songs to the stage required some drastic reworking though, as it's just not practical for her to tour with an orchestra at this point in her career. Instead, the arrangements were stripped down to just two female backup vocalists, an electric bass player, the soft pitter-patter of a vintage drum machine, and the occasional pizzicato violin plucking by Conway.
This minimalist approach was augmented a few times with a guest string trio for the Toronto release party, but it was impressive just how well the songs worked without that extra layer of lushness. As Conway pointed out at one point, this band can tour in a small car, and yet there was never any sense that anything was missing from the songs. It's amazing how rich just three voices can sound when they're not fighting against guitars and keyboards to be heard. The visual projections were similarly modest and simple, but highly effective at creating a mood and complimenting the music. Hearing this drastic reworking of her album makes us pretty excited for the upcoming electronic version of the Ballads Project that we hear is coming in the new year.