St. Lucia is the synth-pop music group led by Jean-Philip Grobler. St. Lucia not only has a new album Hyperion out, but they have a new addition to the family. Grobler and bandmate wife, Patti Beranek welcomed a son this past December. Beranek, carrying the baby, happily waved to fans in line outside of Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, NJ on November 10th as she was heading to their tour bus and Grobler proudly mentioned the birth of their son during the show. The recently renovated Asbury Lanes is a large live music space equipped several bowling lanes, multiple bars and a diner.
It was surreal hearing the thunderous sound of rolling bowling balls and the explosive noise of pins being crashed and tumbled over the drone of the house music before the show. Opening act, Canadian rock band Arkells had no trouble overpowering the bowling noise when they began their set. Highlights of their set included lead singer Max Kerman popping up on a bar adjacent to the stage during “American Screams”, from their new album, Rally Cry, and the band inviting an audience member to play guitar for part of a song.
The house music stopped, leaving only the sound of bowling from the back of the venue and the members of St. Lucia took their places before Jean-Philip Grobler strolled out with a glass of red wine. The band began playing “September” and the thoughts and sounds of bowling vanished. “China Shop”, a synthesizer fueled danceable rhythmic tune, was the first song they played from the new album. The song provided evidence that St. Lucia is still producing songs influenced by Grobler’s fondness for 80’s era pop that includes Phil Collins and Lionel Richie. Most of the band play multiple instruments. Grobler switches from keyboards and samplers to acoustic and electric guitar, Ross Clark splits time on bass, guitar, and keys, Nick Paul plays keyboards and percussion, and Patti Beranek adds keyboards, percussion and vocals.
For the fourth song, St. Lucia deviated from the set list taped to the floor of the stage. Instead of playing “Cold Case”, that was on the list, they played “Forgiveness”, which Grobler explained is a song the band had not played live in four years, and it was getting a lot requests from fans. Both “Cold Case” and “Forgiveness” were on the deluxe version from the group’s first album, When the Night. Synthesizers that conjured memories of early Phil Collins era Genesis began the soaring song “Gun”, from the band’s new album.
“We Got it Wrong” had a dynamic beat and hypnotizing backgrounds vocals that were an awesome platform for Jean-Philip Grobler’s silky smooth vocals. “All Eyes on You”, perhaps the polar opposite of Tupac’s “All Eyez on Me”, kept the kinetic energy in the crowd at maximum. Another new song, “Walking Away” had a heavy pulsating beat that continued the high energy level before the mellower “Love Somebody” temporarily put the audience in cruise control.
The energy level quickly went back up to explosive with “Too Close” and “Physical” which were the last two songs of the set. St. Lucia returned to the stage for an encore that began with the gospel-infused “Paradise Is Waiting”, another song from the new album, and ended with the song that gave the group a lot of attention from their first album, the uplifting and powerful “Elevate”
St. Lucia’s combined incredibly energetic music with an intense light show that had the packed Asbury Lane’s crowd fully engaged and not even thinking about bowling. Well, except for the few people that were actually bowling.