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Leighton Meester in mellow mode for riled-up Vancouver audience

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Leighton Meester at the Rio Theatre, Vancouver, March 1 2015. Audrey Alexandrescu photos.

Review and photos – Leighton Meester at the Rio Theatre, Vancouver, March 1 2015

– review by Elizabeth Lu/photos by Audrey Alexandrescu

A crowd of giddy twentysomething ladies gathered in front of the stage at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver on Sunday night. While the predominantly female audience screamed affectionate praises and professions of love, a laidback Leighton Meester, looking comfortable in a black cardigan, with a plaid sweater tied around her waist, exuded confidence.

Without skipping a beat, the 29-year-old Texan picked up her guitar and dove into “Heartstrings”, the title track from her debut studio album. Meester’s show in Vancouver is the only Canadian stop in the promotional tour for the 2014 record. Best known for her role as Blair Waldorf in the hit CW series Gossip Girl, Meester wrote all nine songs on the record, which was produced by Jeff Trott. Trott, on guitar, accompanied her onstage along with four other members of her band: Brendan Buckley, Brad Fernquist, Erik Kertes, and Lincoln Cleary.

The Rio’s movie theatre setting fit the show’s chill, slow-paced rhythm. The opening act, Savvie, aka Vancouver’s Savannah Leigh Wellman, guided the audience into the headliner’s indie-folk feel. Meester performed all of the tracks on her album, along with three covers: Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough”, The Cardigans’ “Lovefool”, and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, which she saved for her encore.

About half of the audience stayed seated during Meester’s performance while the other half stood in front of the stage, swaying back and forth to the dreamy tracks. In between songs, entertainment came in the form of outbursts from the audience, and Meester’s awkward chuckles in response. Girl crushes announced themselves as ladies shouted from the back and front of the venue, arguing over who loved Meester more. Less common cries of endearment came in the form of: “You go, Glen Cocoa!” and “I respect you!” To the latter, Meester replied, “Well, that’s a first.”

Leighton Meester at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, 2012 (photos)

At one point, Buckley stole the spotlight when a man shouted, “Bring the drummer to the front! He’s good-looking!”

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“You gotta give the people what they want,” said Meester, laughing. Buckley stood up and threw his sticks up in the air and let them tumble down his chest to the floor as the crowd clapped and whooped.

Besides the amusing (though excessive and sometimes obnoxious) gushing from select audience members, the show was very low-key. Unfortunately, with it being the second-to-last stop on Meester’s tour, her exhaustion showed during the low-energy beginning. Her vocals didn’t suffer, but the show started with very little punch. Luckily, she warmed up and began to interact with the crowd and engage with her band a bit more near the middle. By the songs
“Sweet” and “L.A.”, her performance seemed to take on a more natural flow.

If you’re looking to party, Leighton Meester’s show isn’t your type of concert. It’s simple, yet riveting and vulnerable. Meester may not be flashy, but she lets her music speak for itself, and for what her performance lacks in glitz, it makes up for in emotion.

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