Yesterday’s sold out show was an intimate glimpse into what will be a bright future for the 20-year-old Arizona Native.
As Day quietly took the stage clad in a sequined matador-influenced bolero jacket, she wasted no time with unnecessary antics or small talk and went right into her set. Early on she went for it with her bombastic fan favorite, “High,” and her first with her playing the guitar.
Going into this after reading all I could on her, I expected to see another millennial-targeted industry product. She even looks the part, with her Nylon magazine model good looks, nose ring and a seemingly authentic bohemian artist vibe a la’ Lykke Li or Lissie.
Sure her new album, Kicker, sounds good in earbuds and headphones, but engineering and mastering can take care of that.
Day sounds as good a her recordings. “High” requires a couple of high notes. She proves she not only actually sing but can hit them live.
Stubb’s indoor is a small club where the artist and audience doesn’t have a photo pit or wall of separation between them, so hiding behind prerecorded vocals without being caught is not an option. Day nailed them all effortlessly.
Naturally, the rest of her set was comprised mostly of songs from Kicker. “Ace of Hearts,” and “1965,” were fine fillers after “High” until she really got into the better part of Kicker with “East of Eden” and the indie-n-western track, “The Outlaw Josie Whales.” All that was missing for me were actual trumpets, a live feature she can hopefully add for what should be many upcoming festival sets.
After an enjoyable performance of “Shadow Preachers,” one of the few let downs came when Day performed the slow American-tinged, “Jameson.” While there was not anything to really be disappointed by as she was wonderful vocally, it would have been a stronger and more heartfelt live performance with the accompaniment of both a steel guitar player and Day playing an acoustic guitar, the way fans hear it on Kicker.
Shortly after finishing “Hypnotic,” Day broke out into a surprise cover. She and her backing band broke out into her rendition of The Zombies classic, “Time of the Season.” She asked people to sing along if they knew it, but that didn’t happen too much in this crowd full of mostly millennials. While they seemed to enjoy it, I felt they didn’t really appreciate it. They didn’t realize the cool factor of a 20-year-old not only knowing a Zombies song, but also with the gall to perform it. The few parents and “adults” in the back sure enjoyed the moment.
Day followed with a vanilla reggae-tinged “Milk and Honey” before closing with “Mustang Kids,” a track that features Los Angeles-based rapper Baby E on Kicker. While Baby E was not present, no one in attendance seemed to care as Day prowled around on stage like a sweaty lioness and gave it her all with the last bit of energy she had in her tiny frame. It was a shock to learn that she closed with “Mustang Kids,” as she has bigger fan faves, but that was that.
Based on her performance at Stubb’s, Day’s good but not yet great. Blame it on age and lack of experience, but the talent is certainly there. Despite having a machine behind her, i.e. label, publicist, booking agent with a festival pipeline, this artist whose real name is Zella Day Kerr, is the real deal despite having the appearance and resources of a product. Stardom is hers for the taking.
It is unlikely that Day will be performing live in a club this small (outside of maybe a SXSW performance) again as her fan base grows, so those in attendance Wednesday night should relish the experience they captured on their phones all night.
Day heads to Lollapalooza in August.