A Grammy-nominated artist came to Geneseo on Sunday March 29 and only about 120 people saw her. Mary Lambert—famous for collaborating with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on the hit “Same Love”— performed in the College Union Ballroom to a small, but devoted crowd. Prior to her concert, 15 students won the privilege of meeting Lambert. As one of the 15 students, I stood in the crowd waiting to meet her. She told us how excited she was and complimented our outfits.
Normally, meet-and-greet experiences are short and impersonal, but Lambert spent time with each of us, signing posters and tickets and taking selfies.
When the concert began, the audience was made up of a sea of bold lips and alternative hairstyles. Alumni and unaffiliated fans came from Rochester to see Lambert perform. Once she entered the stage with her guitarist and began her set, everyone was drawn to her. She took to the piano and began singing a melodic tune.
After her first song, Lambert explained that at her concerts, “I like to talk about uncomfortable things—but that’s because I think it’s important to do.”
Her lyrics launched into an assortment of topics ranging from body image, mental illness, love, sexual abuse, sexuality and more. Although Lambert takes on tough topics in her music, her work never feels trite. The crowd was captivated with Lambert’s talented and visceral performance.
Highlights of the evening included “My Moon” and “She Keeps Me Warm.” In these songs, Lambert took raw emotion and crafted it into art. Her spoken word and musical hybrid “Body Love” also hit home with concertgoers. After hearing sniffling around me, I realized a large portion of the audience was crying.
Lambert emphasized that crying is encouraged at her concerts; that her music is a safe space to explore issues atypical for pop concerts.
“I know people come to concerts to dance,” she said. “Hey, that’s why I go. But crying is good, too. Crying is healthy.”
The concert was also filled with laughter. Lambert gave humorous anecdotes about befriending Madonna and being star-struck by Paul McCartney and Keith Urban at the Grammy Awards.
She brought playfulness and yearning to her cover of Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and even taught the audience harmonies for her pop hit “Secrets.”
The crowd’s smallness made it feel like a private concert. Lambert thanked the sound crew and the audience for an amazing concert.
“I don’t like playing games,” she said. “I don’t like to lie. But this was my favorite concert to play.”
It’s a shame that so few students went to this concert, considering how important an artist Lambert is in our time. She’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a feminist, a survivor of childhood abuse and an activist promoting body peace. Geneseo has dozens of special interest organizations that care about these issues. Where was their representation in the crowd? Where was their support?
Nevertheless, Lambert was a powerhouse performer. Her voice and stage presence was mesmerizing, and her music is genuine in an era of cynicism. By the end of the concert, a group of strangers became an empowered community.