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Leith Ross proves there’s power in tenderness during an intimate concert

The singer-songwriter gave a lighthearted, fan-friendly performance for a packed 7th St. Entry.
Image by Photo by Sarah Horner
Leith Ross at the 7th Street Entry on June 14, 2023.

Indie singer-songwriter Leith Ross showcased top-notch lyricism and an engaging stage presence on the smoky evening of June 14.

With record levels of air pollution, the short walk from the parking ramp to the Entry left an acrid taste in the throat — but it was washed away by Ross’s smooth, euphonious voice. 

Opening act Kai Warrior and her acoustic guitar took the stage first. As a smaller artist, her setlist mostly consisted of unreleased songs that included lyrics about hypochondria and growing out of one’s hometown. 

Kevin Atwater also performed several songs, such as “Star Tripping,” which explores young love, religious shame and sexuality.

The heartfelt performances of Warrior and Atwater were generally well-received, but the acoustic, lyric-heavy songs blended together. It is difficult to amp up a crowd with only a guitar, and restlessness ensues when fans have been waiting in the venue for over two hours to see the artist they came for.

When Ross and their band members finally crammed onto the tiny stage, the energy in the room inevitably grew. They started with a sequence of songs from Ross’s most recent album, “To Learn,” which effectively displayed the artist’s famously devastating lyricism.

The kinship between the musicians on stage was palpable. Ross’s friends seemed to make them more comfortable on stage, both during songs and in between. With bass and electric guitar players, a drumset and several acoustic guitars, the instrumentals and vocal melodies blended to create pleasing harmonies.

Ross also made sure to involve the fans with a unique method of crowd engagement: a “questions box” sat at the merch table before the performance began. Fans could ask anything, but mostly stuck with silly questions like “What’s your favorite soup?” (Classic tomato) and “Can you give us a tattoo tour?” (Ross only has one—a bagel on their arm). 

The artist admitted the box originated as a crutch for the stressful task of coming up with good audience banter every night. But it stuck around and proved to be a success, provoking lots of laughs.

Fans sang most passionately to “I’d Have to Think About It” and “Monogamy,” released together in 2021. The collective voice of the crowd was quite beautiful — a rare treat in the world of live music.

Ross was aware of the fact they were talking to a largely queer audience. They discussed their favorite queer TV shows and bravely came out as a regular milk drinker. 

“There are a lot of oak milk drinkers on this stage,” they said about their bandmates. 

Warrior and Atwater also showcased bittersweet songs about the LGBTQ+ experience, ensuring that the show was a safe space for all.

“I love when the homosexuals are happy,” Ross said. “I also love when they’re sad but it’s poignant and important. Balance!”

Ross’s song “Music Box” was an unexpected highlight of the show. Released on its own, the single showcases a poetic, non-traditional lyric structure and melancholy melody. Its live version was even more interesting — it included a quirky little offbeat drum and, fittingly, music box sounds.

At just over an hour, the set went by fast. Ross closed out their encore with “We’ll Never Have Sex,” a song that depicts pure, gentle love. After the unfinished version attracted an abundance of admiration on TikTok, Ross released the tune in early 2022. It quickly became their most popular song with almost 50 million streams on Spotify.

Ross’s tenderness is clearly their strength — in lyricism, vocals and personality. With songs that truly hold their own, this growing artist stands out as the raw, real deal.

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