Steve Lacy, cool and comfortable while grappling with newfound fame


Steve Lacy currently has the No. 1 song in the country, “Bad Habit,” a gentle pop earworm that sounds like staring at stars glued to a bedroom ceiling. On Saturday night at a sold-out Fillmore Silver Spring, the audience had to wait until the end of his set to hear it — not that anyone seemed to mind. Youthful yearning is a theme, not just in “Bad Habit” but also in much of the singer-songwriter-producer’s compositions, and it’s one that resonated with a crowd full of Lacy obsessives.

Just 24 years old, the Compton, Calif., native has quickly proved himself to be a bard of young love, setting tales of make-outs and breakups to silky sonics that would feel at home any time in the past half-century. His instantly timeless songs traverse funk-soul brotherhood, with walking bass lines, jangly chords, percussive wallop and a vocal tone that drips with Cali cool. On the microphone, he effortlessly slips into a falsetto that can seduce or shatter glass, depending on the moment.

Lacy’s latest album, “Gemini Rights,” is the fullest expression yet of his craft, and he played almost all of it Saturday, along with highlights from 2019’s “Apollo XXI” and an album of demos that were recorded — like many of his early productions — through a guitar jury-rigged to an iPhone. In concert, his DIY ditties were full of life, each extra fill, lick or solo drawing them farther out of his phone.

Lacy is the latest in a line of preternaturally gifted and prematurely accomplished talents, such as Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, who established themselves behind the board and in the studio before making waves on their own. Like many of his peers, he seems to have grown up on the works of Pharrell Williams and André 3000’s “The Love Below,” but seems ready to surpass his teachers.

On Saturday, Lacy looked cool and comfortable in the spotlight, with braids and wraparound shades that connected the stylistic dots back to Stevie Wonder, another prodigy who penned songs that were keyed into young life. But he also seemed hesitant to accept the adulation of the audience, even one that bought up every ticket long before he topped Billboard. As in his songs, is the love for real?

Even while grappling with his newfound fame, Lacy looked out for his fans, asking people to step back from the stage and taking an extended break late in the night, so lightheaded revelers could get water or be evacuated. (The tragedy at Astroworld is less than a year in the rearview, after all.) The pause tanked the momentum, but “Bad Habit” and an encore of crowd favorites put the night — and Lacy’s future — in perspective.

“I feel like everything’s changing right now,” he told the crowd. “I’m happy you guys are here to witness this change with me.”

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