CONCORD, Calif. — Thanks to Lindsey Stirling, Concord, California had the coolest violin recital the city has ever seen.
Stirling’s signature combination of violin and dance was out in force on this stop of her “Artemis” tour. She was backed by a drummer, a keyboardist-guitarist and four backup dancers, along with the occasional pre-recorded vocals or backing track as the song required.
She began with the title track from her latest album, Artemis, in a costume from the song’s video, including the wig, playing an electric violin made to look like a crossbow. Clips from the song’s video played on screens behind and around Stirling and the dancers, which continued into “Til the Light Goes Out,” the next song on the album.
A third track from Artemis, “Darkside,” switched out the multimedia presentation for dark screens but a far more elaborate and impressive dance routine. The level of difficulty seemed high even without Stirling simultaneously playing a violin.
After a costume change to a music box theme, she played “Shatter Me,” the title track from her breakthrough second album. Even though the bulk of the crowd consisted of devoted followers, the crowd’s joyous reaction showed this tune was a particular favorite. Lzzy Hale, the song’s guest vocalist on the album, was presumably not available to join the tour, so her recorded vocals were used.
To introduce the next song, Lindsey Stirling stood at a microphone off to the side of the stage to tell a story, which turned out to be the first of a recurring feature between songs of inspirational anecdotes from her life. In this one, she told the story of a Peter-Pan-themed party that she wore a pirate costume to, since she was obsessed with pirates, only to discover that nobody else was in costume, and there weren’t even any Peter Pan decorations. Her message was to be proud to be the only one dressed like a pirate at the party (like her book!).
For the following song, “Master of Tides,” Stirling lent a sort of choose-your-own-adventure angle to the choreography. Or at least that was the claim; the choices were so obvious that they definitely didn’t have anything planned for the other one. “Sail home” or “sail to find treasure” is a stacked deck, though between “sword fight” or “go fishing,” the latter probably would have had the more compelling dance.
The end of this song was the first appearance of the harness. At multiple points through the show, Stirling was attached to cables to play while suspended in the air. This first time she was lifted about 10 feet in the air as part of a faux-mutiny. One song later, she would be lifted and turned upside down for “Love Goes On and On,” featuring vocals by Evanscence’s Amy Lee (also pre-recorded).
There was also an on-stage costume change—quite an accomplishment by the stagehands and makeup artists—while she told the story of her meeting Amy Lee and becoming friends, after utterly failing to get her attention during several initial attempts.
It was the clearest example of a pattern throughout her spoken interludes: Every time she would pause, a female voice would shout, “WE LOVE YOU, LINDSEY!” from the crowd. While she spoke, however, male voices would shout commentary mid-sentence, occasionally visibly tripping her up. Even onstage in a literal spotlight, Stirling was subjected to the tiresomeness of men trying to talk over her.
“Crystalize,” the platinum-certified single from her first album, received the oddest reaction. Several men jumped up and started headbanging. After the song concluded, she noted that at every stop, some “bro-looking guys” get super into that song, and at this, the headbanging dudes jumped back up to cheer. (She did call it.)
The highlight of the show was during a medley of songs about “wishes, dreams and possibilities.” Her tiny dog, Luna, ran across the stage twice, first with a balloon tied to her back and then again dressed as Woody from “Toy Story.”
The most impressive of the harness performances was during “Between Twilight,” when Lindsey Stirling put on a pair of deer antlers from the “Artemis” video and sat on a platform that was raised about 30 feet off the ground, with dancers below.
After a few more songs and a couple costume changes, it was time for the famed red wig from Artemis, and a fan favorite track from Shatter Me, “Roundtable Rival.” The keyboardist-guitarist emerged from the back of the stage to participate in the duel, trading the steampunk western theme for a future-dystopian aesthetic. The song, to put it mildly, rocked. With the drums and guitar turned up and the mix EQ’d to emphasize the bass, the set turned into a full-blown rock concert for that song and “Don’t Let This Feeling Fade,” which was seamlessly attached to the end.
Before the final songs, “First Light,” “Mirage” and encore “Guardian,” Stirling explained that she’d gotten food poisoning the day before and hadn’t been sure if she would be able to perform. Her performance under these circumstances was so impressive, one can hardly imagine what she can do at full strength.