Empress Of captures audience at intimate Starlight show

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Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

Lorely Rodriguez shimmers in the face of recent emotional desolation. After exiting a long-term relationship, Rodriguez experienced an existential revision that sparked the prowess of her solo project’s debut album Me, which explores themes of emotive destruction imposed by her ill-fated attachment.

As this record was a journey through her conscience, she noted it would be difficult for her to grapple with someone’s distaste for it, which speaks to the intimacy of her album.

Her aesthetic embodies influences from many brands of music, particularly electronica, R&B and dream pop.

Notwithstanding the detachment she experienced post-breakup, Rodriguez’s performance at the Starlight Social Club, which tragically drew a sparse crowd, was that of raw energy and absolute contentment with herself and the audience. She hit the stage with a glaring opening track filled with pounding bass and airy synth which really excited the crowd.

The absence of a gleaming light show to pair with her upbeat tempos and silvery voice did little to detract from her overall performance.

The stage filled with her delight and smiles proving contagious to the audience as they bounced and danced along. Some threw themselves across the floor, while others couldn’t resist tapping their feet to every beat.

Backed by her equally energetic keyboardist and tranquil drummer, Rodriguez took the spotlight with her exuberant dancing in her black silhouetted dress and low-cut Dr Martens.

Rodriguez’s performance and delivery were in stark contrast to her lyricism, but the affliction was masqueraded by sharp production and gorgeous hooks. Appropriately, the audience learned from her introspection without having to absorb the dolour.

The set was seamlessly integrated as she played the track “Everything is You”, followed by “Need Myself” to juxtapose how much she “gave of herself in her relationship” and in the aftermath, the “exploration and loving of oneself” again.

As the show neared the end, a slow and sombre finale was anticipated to reflect the ending of the album, but instead Empress Of presented a vibrant track with staccato synth that pulsated through the room.

Her choice of an energetic and powerful closing track runs analogous to her strength in overcoming the doomed romance that inspired the performance.

Empress Of’s favourable coverage by music blogs was paradoxical to the tragic void on the dance floor; it’s unfortunate that this New York-based solo project didn’t attract a larger audience in Waterloo. Albeit, Rodriguez recognized that industry success extends beyond the web.

“Being ‘in real life’ and playing for 60 people is more important than the Internet … it’s like going out on the road and meeting actual people,” said Rodriguez

At only four days into a three-month tour, she will be off to the United States for several weeks before crossing the Atlantic to serenade fans across Europe.

Despite the weak turnout in Waterloo, the international attention and critical acclaim are well deserved. Her performance signals a tenacious start to a young and auspicious career.

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