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Lindsey Stirling

Jannus Live in St Petersburg, FL
9
It was the end of a hot July day in St. Petersburg, Florida. Windows down, I cruised around with my girlfriend in search of a parking spot near the Jannus Live Theater. Despite being over an hour early, finding a spot was pretty hard to do and the line for the sold-out concert was wrapped around a couple of blocks. We eventually found parking and the end of the line, which, despite being shockingly long, moved relatively quickly. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised by the massive turn out for the YouTube sensation, Lindsey Stirling. For those of you who don't know, Lindsey Stirling is an incredibly talented violinist who takes an instrument generally reserved for orchestras and country bands and puts it center stage in an electronic rock concert. She has over 5 million subscribers on YouTube, a staggering number considering Justin Bieber has just under 10 million. Despite not being formally trained in dance (until her appearance on the YouTube series, Just Dance), Stirling is known for her mixture of modern dance and ballet moves?while she's shredding her violin.

As we waited for the show to start in our spot about fifteen feet from the stage, I could already tell that this was going to be an intimate concert. The show began soon enough, but not with Lindsey Stirling. Instead, an unannounced opening act, AJR, took the stage.
AJR is a group of New York Brothers (Adam, Jack, and Ryan Met) who essentially have combined the sound of the Beach Boys with that of bands like American Authors. They rose to semi-fame when they tweeted their single "I'm Ready" (which features a sample from the television show, SpongeBob Square Pants) at a slew of celebrities, one of who forwarded the link to her manager who signed them (thanks Wikipedia for this fun fact). The boys seemed like a bunch of hipster music lovers that just happened to be on stage instead of in a garage or around a campfire. In a good way. They are doing what they love and it shows. The middle brother clearly has the most musical talent given his position as keyboardist, vocalist, and other-random-instrument-player. The youngest brother is the lead singer and drummer and has enough energy to give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. Despite banging on the drum like Donkey Kong on a rampage, he simultaneously belted out chill melodies that sounded as if he was kicking back on the couch. The oldest brother played bass and barely seemed to notice that he was performing in a sold-out venue. If anything, he was a little too cool for school, with a definitive older sibling vibe. Having had no idea who these guys were before seeing them, I fell in love with their music and immediately downloaded their EP, "I'm Ready" when I got home ? I suggest you do the same.

Moments after the sun set (which had no effect on the heat and humidity), Lindsey Stirling appeared onstage behind a screen. As the curtain dropped, her messy red hair, petite frame, and punky skirt became recognizable and were met with cheers from an audience who ranged in age from about 6 months to 90 years (seriously). She powered through two of the songs from her most recent album, playing and dancing to her heart's content, before taking a break to talk to her fans. She described her long hiatus from the touring circuit as a necessary step to develop her new album and as a chance to see other concerts and be inspired. At which point, she referenced the infamous full-nude onstage costume change of Lady Gaga. In homage, her dancers and her sister/stage manager then helped her with her own onstage costume change. But instead of stripping to her skivvies, the Mormon Stirling layered a neon green turtle neck and pants on top of her current costume. Her skirt jumbled up in the pants making a shelf butt, which Stirling addressed by saying "I said Lady Gaga, not Nicki Minaj" before untucking the skirt. Well done, Lindsey. Well done. Let me clarify that for the next few songs Lindsey Stirling danced and played in at least two layers of clothing in sweltering Florida heat. All without missing a beat. Meanwhile, I was dying from heat stroke in my bro-tank and shorts as I stood in the audience.

As the show progressed, Stirling started pulling more material from her previous albums like "Crystallize," "Stars Align," and "Transcendence." At one point, she played her cover of the Zelda theme music, while in the background a little 8-bit Link ran across the stage over and over again. I was amused. Almost as entertaining as Stirling were her two backup dancers. Though some of their moves were a bit repetitive, their energy and enthusiasm really added to the show. I particularly enjoyed their dance battle during one of Stirling's off-stage costume changes. They also gave Stirling a chance to show off her core strength during the two or three times they held her in the air by her waist as she continued to play.

The moments when Stirling talked to her audience were almost as moving as when she was performing. At one point, her fake eyelash fell off (have I mentioned that it's REALLY humid in Florida?) and her keyboardist, Gavi, called her out when she tried to hide it. She gracefully worked through the situation and continued being a stellar entertainer. Towards the end of the show one of her introductions to a song she wrote about hope, she mentioned her interaction with a young girl during that day's meet and greet. The girl, who had been battling an aggressive cancer for a year, had only just been released from the hospital quarantine that day. As she talked about this girl's strength, Stirling choked up, in what was, to me, one of the most important and touching parts of the show. In another touching interaction, Stirling introduced her new hit single, "Shatter Me," as autobiographical. She mentioned that she had felt like a perfect porcelain ballerina in a snowglobe, spinning around, constantly trying to present the perfect image to everyone around her. As Stirling/the ballerina starts to try to explore her true nature, the porcelain starts to crack and she wonders what, if anything, will be left when the perfect exterior shatters. In a powerful speech, performance, and music video (which played behind her) Stirling tells this story and gives her audience the courage to be who they really are and to stop worrying about putting up false images in hopes of pleasing everyone else.

Overall, this was a great concert given by a phenomenal musician, entertainer, and person. Lindsey Stirling is a must see and a must hear. Even if you prefer concerts at which you can sing along (like I do) you'll be satisfied by the amount of energy and community radiating off stage. Plus, Stirling throws us a bone with her haunting cover of "All of Me." If you still can, try and snag a ticket to her tour and be ready for an epic battle between Stirling's violin and Gavi's keytar (according to the choreography Stirling wins the battle, but I'm convinced the audience is the real winner). If you can't get out to a concert, you should definitely check out her YouTube channel. My favorite video, apart from the Phantom of the Opera medley, is "Moon Trance:" a zombie themed video that features her percussionist and keyboardist (who have been with her since her first audition after responding to an ad asking for them to memorize 13 songs in 72 hours and fly to New York) as musical zombie backup. Get ready to have your face melted and your heart filled.

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