PHOTOS: St. Lucia brings ‘Utopia’ to August Hall

St. Lucia, Jean-Philip Grobler

St. Lucia performs at August Hall in San Francisco on Oct. 28, 2022. Mike DeWald/STAFF.

SAN FRANCISCO — Dance pop quintet St. Lucia, touring new album Utopia, brought a kaleidoscopic performance to August Hall Friday night. The group, led by guitarist Jean-Philip Grobler and keyboardist Patti Beranek, front-loaded the show with newer material and kept the pace full-tilt for most of the night.

The show was sold out and the concert hall packed wall-to-wall, with many in costume two days before Halloween. It felt extra special because of this, which is a great bounce-back for St. Lucia. The last time the band played that room, in 2018, Grobler injured his leg after taking a tumble, forcing the show to end early.

No such issues this time around. The band, which includes bassist Ross Clark, keyboardist Nick Paul and drummer Dustin Kaufman, began on a high note with intro song “)(” and “Separate World,” both from the new album. The stage was broken up into two tiers, decorated with potted tropical plants, paper lanterns and striking lighting production, all set in front of the Utopia album cover.

St. Lucia, Patti Beranek

St. Lucia performs at August Hall in San Francisco on Oct. 28, 2022.

For “Another Lifetime,” Grobler hopped off the stage and started making his way down the front row by the barricade, shaking hands. It would be one of several times he went into the audience, bringing the show closer to fans.

“Closer Than This,” from the band’s self-titled 2012 debut EP, rolled right into Utopia tune “Rocket on My Feet.” For the latter, Grobler stepped up to the second tier, next to Paul, and started banging away on another set of percussion instruments. The following “China Shop,” from 2018’s Hyperionincluded a disco rave-up at the end. And St. Lucia followed that up with “All Eyes on You,” from 2013’s When the Night and one of the best pop songs from the last decade. It was an embarrassment of musical riches.

Oh, and all of this was happening while Beranek’s and Grobler’s two adorable sons, both wearing ear protection, were running back and forth in the pit between the front row and the stage. At one point, Grobler got on his hands and knees to give them hugs. The married couple performed “Call Me Up,” also from the 2013 album, by themselves, with Grobler strumming a guitar.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia performs at August Hall in San Francisco on Oct. 28, 2022.

Kaufman, who had several friends in the crowd including a young drumming student dressed as Peter Pan (his mom was Captain Hook) then proceeded to smash his way through an extended drum solo before the rest of the band joined in on “Home,” from 2016’s Matter. At one point, four of the five musicians on stage were busy striking something.

And during “Walking Away,” Beranek and Grobler literally walked away mid-song while the rhythm section turned the song into a jazzy discordant breakdown for a couple of minutes until their bandmates returned. The frantic pace only slowed a couple of times, but you can’t fault the band for needing a break, especially if that means Grobler hops the barricade and goes strolling through the crowd while fans take selfies and dance around him.

Blanks, Simon de Wit

Blanks performs at August Hall in San Francisco on Oct. 28, 2022.

Dutch musician Simon de Wit, who performs as Blanks, opened the show with a set of ’80s-inspired synth and guitar pop. Sporting a mullet (he pointed out how much he loves that decade) and backed by a keyboardist and bassist, he breezily played about eight tracks from an album he released a year ago to the day. Those included power ballad “Chasing After Memories” as well as other uptempo numbers like “Nightmare,” “Dance Like This” and “Home Without A Heart.” “Lost In The Moment” could have scored an exercise video from the ’80s—if only someone in the crowd was wearing neon leg warmers. For good measure, Blanks threw in a poppy cover of Post Malone’s “Better Now.”

— Roman Gokhman

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