“What’s up everybody at home? Strap in and get ready for a good time!” enthuses sharp-suited pop superstar-in-waiting SG Lewis, the room bathed in nostalgic golden sunlight as he kicks off ‘times: The Live Experience’. Streamed worldwide on the day of his debut album’s release ‘times’, the 26-year-old’s escapist party delivers the equivalent of a much-missed Friday night out.
Inspired by 1970s New York nightlife, the old-school disco aesthetic sees London’s Battersea Arts Centre (where the show was filmed under strict COVID-safety guidelines) transformed with balloons and a cubed screen of kaleidoscopic neon shapes – both of which should help to transport viewers from their sofas. Think of it as a more modest version of his collaborator Dua Lipa’s ‘Studio 2054’ livestream gig back in November. Especially creative is the use of silhouetted mannequins; frozen in time, this affecting set design hits particularly hard during ‘Heartbreak On The Dancefloor’, given our current physically separated reality.
Lewis isn’t alone, though: armed with his keyboard, guitar and microphone under a shining spotlight, the Reading-born one-man disco machine is joined by a live band and string quartet. While he seamlessly mixes tracks together with laser-like synths and toe-tapping percussion, the orchestral instrumentation adds an emotional levity that’s more subtle on record.
He’s also joined (virtually) by many of the album’s featured artists; radiating a life-affirming positivity while funking out on his guitar, Nile Rodgers make an uplifting video appearance – a show highlight. The energy intensifies during ‘Impact’, flashing red strobes conjuring a sweaty 2AM Printworks rave.
Later, the atmosphere changes dramatically, with the audience taken to a church-like space. In the distance, Lewis sits at a piano in front of the string quartet. As he performs album closer ‘Fall’, the pulsing house beats are replaced by solemn piano keys; Lewis confidently showcases his impressive vocal range, the song’s lyrics asking if we can ever go back to the way things were.
Thankfully, the show doesn’t end on this sobering note. After Lewis walks back to the main performance space and removes his suit jacket to reveal a bright floral shirt, the black-and-white camera effect fades away and instead pops with colour. Ending with the endorphin-releasing explosion of ‘Chemicals’, the contrasting palette cleverly represents the multitude of emotions that reside within Lewis’ music.
“Hope we can all do this together in one room as soon as possible, stay safe,” he signs off, his job to put smiles on faces and provide a temporary escape from reality complete. Even the faceless mannequins have managed to put their hands together in appreciation.