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Empress Of Comes Home and Sells Out The Bowery Ballroom

March 28th, 2016

Empress Of – The Bowery Ballroom – March 25, 2016

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Songstress Lorely Rodriguez, aka Empress Of, grew up in California but now calls New York City her home. After a successful SXSW the week before, the local lady returned to play a homecoming of sorts at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom on Friday night. (She’d already played a rooftop gig at Milk Studios for a Googleplay event the night before.) It’s a far cry from my first encounter of her, opening for Jamie Liddell at Music Hall of Williamsburg almost three years ago. She caught my ear then and I’ve been dutifully following her ever since for good reason. Last year Empress Of released her full-length debut, Me, which she played from extensively on Friday night. Although Rodriguez opened with an oldie, “Realize You,” before settling into her current material, like the bumpin’ “Water Water” and the kinetic “Threat,” while getting showered with strobe lights.

Aside from the intimate show on Thursday night, Rodriguez professed that she hadn’t performed in New York City since her album’s release. Thankful for the turnout, she mused about how much has changed and exclaimed she’d been to Australia for the first time. Regardless of new or older material, fans bounced to the infectious rhythms. Empress Of’s first solo single, “Woman Is a Word,” dropped last week to praise from Stereogum, describing it as “a wispy, propulsive synthpop jam.” Compared to the slightly dated “Tristeza,” the synths and wispy quality are still at the core beneath Spanish and English lyrics delivered in high-octave vocals.

Empress Of gushed that it was an “honor and privilege” to do what she does after rousing applause for “How Do You Do It.” Although there wasn’t a reunion with Dev Hynes (he was otherwise occupied at Terminal 5) on the encore number, “Icon,” everyone in the crowd up in the balcony didn’t mind as they raged in their perch singing along word for word. Ms. Rodriguez already has several projects up her sleeve from a Darkstar collab on “Reformer”—in which her sultry vocals brighten an ominous track—to an upcoming spring European tour. There’s nothing stopping this already rising star. —Sharlene Chiu