LIVE: Lost Leaders Oriented Roots Lovers and Rockers at Caffe Lena 1/11/2020


Lost Leaders brought their rootsy, rock and roll sound to Caffe Lena on Saturday, January 11th to a sold out crowd. Playing a unique sound for the traditional folk venue, the band incorporated a roots retro vibe and storytelling with a newer pop rock and roll sound that strayed from Caffe Lena’s typical musical offerings. Reminiscent some of Tom Petty and Neil Young, but also defying classification, Lost Leaders offered a rich sound that resoundingly drew listeners forward with excitement.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Fans waited a bit for the band to take stage. A touch after 8 pm, instead of having the traditional Caffe Lena staff pop on stage with a warm welcome first, the fans were greeted by Pete Cole smiling slyly to the audience, warning them “This isn’t real,” as he tuned his turquoise guitar. Shortly a brief introduction by Caffe Lena staff welcoming Lost Leaders for their first performance at the historic venue followed, and the band launched into some angsty lyrics that recalled pop 80s sounds and earlier political subversion.

With sweet, natural harmonies, Lost Leaders offered musicianship that delighted. Telling a story about the anxieties of artificial intelligence running households and lives for many, the band then launched into a song focusing on the modern advantages (and disadvantages) of having artificial intelligence make “all your dreams come true.” The piece was edgy and self aware, with vocals answering the chorus that sounded eerily non human.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

The band played many songs from their new album Promises Promises, including “Fallen Stars” and “Extraordinary.” Telling jokes and interacting with the audience, Lost Leaders had an ease about them that reminds one of a relaxed dinner party at your oldest friend’s house. They can talk through serious issues while somehow decreasing anxiety with laughter and connection.

A number of songs sounded so similar to Crosby, Stills and Nash that it was disorienting. The beautiful harmonies as they crooned over lyrics like “All I wanted was to see you again/ All I wanted was to be best friends” brought both a familiar but unique sense to the night.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Isaacs and Cole have a wonderful rapport that was fun to watch. Their “dad jokes” kept the night light, having the band members introduce themselves to one another (“It’s time to introduce the band!”) and laughing off Cole’s foul language (“You should hear my kids—the dogs are even worse!).

At the same time, Lost Leaders confronted really deep topics in “Miracle Mile,” “All That I Want,” and “To the Top.”

The band, by the way, includes Isaacs’ nephew Lee Falco on drums and Will Bryant on keyboard. Those two could steal the show themselves with their humility and astounding musicianship; their band Restless Age is coming to Caffe Lena 2/1.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

Keeping to Caffe Lena’s formula of talented musicians performing roots music that tells great stories, Lost Leaders led the second set with a cover of a Tom Petty song and later a cover of this writer’s favorite Neil Young’s “New Mom.” Between the covers was Lost Leaders’ “Take Heart,” a lush and soothing sound that quieted the room.

Keeping with a political tradition honored at Caffe Lena, Lost Leaders also did a sing along about white privilege. “You’re going to earn your keep here because we don’t know what we’re doing” Isaacs laughed, acknowledging his privilege as a white male. Followed by a gut wrenching song about grief for Levon Helms’ daughter Amy, Isaacs’ warm intelligence shone through.

Photo by Jim Gilbert

There wasn’t one song that was disappointing. “Probably Why We’re Here” gave an authentic view into adult relationship failure. “Keepin Busy / Feelin Fine” offered upbeat energy in a traditional “bar song.”

Lost Leaders isn’t lost at all. Oriented directly in the present, aware of their past, and totally ready for a future of greatness, Lost Leaders gave the packed Caffe Lena what they came for: some serious fun.

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