“Boston! It feels good to be back,” exclaimed Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price near the beginning of a peppy headlining set at House of Blues on Wednesday night. Twelve years ago, Lake Street Dive formed in Boston, and over the years the band gained notoriety — and fans — for its energetic jazz-pop hybrid, scorching live sets, and street-corner cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
Now, the group had returned for a sold-out show with a reason to celebrate: “Side Pony,” its first major-label release, which came out on Nonesuch in February. The album, recorded in Nashville, isn’t so much a changeup of Lake Street Dive’s thoroughly pleasant sound but an enhancement of it: Tracks like the “little revenge song” “Spectacular Failure” and the pleading “Call Off Your Dogs” amped up the band’s best qualities.
Price’s voice is often the focal point, and with good reason: She’s a captivating performer with a precisely refined instrument, and she can handle tracks like the rueful “You Go Down Smooth” and the playful “Side Pony” with equal amounts of vigor. But Lake Street Dive’s appeal comes from being a machine that is keenly aware of, and willing to showcase, its members’ strengths, whether on the slow-burning “So Long” or a rousing show-closing cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Mike Olson’s contributions on guitar and trumpet played off Price’s voice expertly, winding through tracks like the crowd favorite “Mistakes” in a way that allowed both him and his bandmates to shine. Drummer Mike Calabrese showed off his skills during a lengthy solo, but his real skill rested in the way he helped the band swing. And whether she’s playing smooth walking-bass lines or attacking a song’s low end with fleet-fingered fury, bassist Bridget Kearney ties the whole package together, providing steadiness even when she’s ferociously adding counterpoint to tracks like the rave-up “Elijah.”
“We owe a lot of gratitude to this city,” Price said near the end of the set, before listing off local venues Lake Street Dive had played in during its journey to major-label status: now-closed spots like “the bubble tea place on Boylston” and the Cambridge bar All Asia, intimate rooms like Cambridge’s Toad and Club Passim, and bigger venues like the Sinclair, Royale, and, of course, House of Blues. It provided a nice callback not just for Lake Street Dive, but also for the fans who were welcoming the band home.
LAKE STREET DIVE
With the Suffers. At House of Blues, March 23Maura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.