Lindsey Stirling has done for the violin what Michael Flatley did for Irish step dance —show the world that a traditionally classical art form can actually penetrate the mainstream to fantastic effect. To that end, Stirling has become a crossover artist playing rock venues around the world and drawing audiences of myriad musical tastes and ages. That was true of her headlining gig at the Santa Barbara Bowl show Saturday, August 15.
Before Stirling performed, however, supporting act Lights warmed up listeners. A pixie-sized woman with a big voice and an engaging presence, Lights is a Juno Award-winning Canadian artist whose songs are catchy, foot tapping, and often lovely electronic pop rock melodies. Her hit “Running with the Boys” — “a song about being a kid and good vibes,” she explained — and “Up We Go” got the crowd jumping while “Portal” provided an ethereal aural experience.
Sufficiently primed by the effervescent Lights, fans squealed with delight when Stirling came on. Smoke swirled across the stage as the violinist appeared backlit in a silver sparkly outfit. Stirling creates a spectacular spectacle of sights and sounds on stage that both hypnotizes and overwhelms. While the amalgamation of videos playing on screens behind her, an attention getting light show, choreographed dancing, and her stunning musicianship made for a glorious stage production it also made it difficult to absorb as a whole. That, however, was a minor detail. Mostly, Stirling provided one wow-ing moment after another through her simultaneous combination of intimate, heartfelt bowing and impressive dance moves.
She was a firecracker as a performer and immeasurably charming, witty, and candid when she addressed the audience. “I was suffering from depression a few years ago,” she confessed as an introduction to her song “Transcendence.” “I practiced trying to train my brain to be positive. I believe we have the power to be what we want to be. Happiness takes work and effort.”
The audience revealed their devotion with hollered proclamations of “I love you, Lindsey” throughout the dynamic performance.