‘She is so cute’, ‘Yes she is’, I was hearing while leaving the Observatory on Friday night, I didn’t want to use that word again to talk about Jenny Lewis, but since everyone seemed to agree on this! Jenny was totally charming on stage, confident and graceful, cute but damn talented, singing her own songs, a few Rilo Kiley’s and Jenny and Johnny’s with the same ease and clear youthful voice. And the most amazing thing about her? She doesn’t seem to age at all, still showing her adolescent silhouette in a cheerleader-style matching red top and skirt. At the age of 36!
Last night, her voice seemed to have suffered a little bit from her tour, as Jenny was speaking with a weary and fragile voice between the songs, whereas she had that usual strong and bright tone when she was singing. It was my first time at the Observatory, which used to be called the Galaxy, and the place was really packed to the roof. I had the hardest time to get there, due to an accident involving several trucks, closing down the freeway, and making me agonize for close to two hours on the 710; so my hope to get close to the stage when I got there, was very small, but I managed to find a spot on the side, not too far behind. However I realized soon that this spot was also occupied by a band of drunk teenagers, talking very loudly during the whole show, and largely covering Jenny’s voice when she was talking,.. oh the joy of Orange County! Plus the security guards were chasing down people taking pictures with a green laser and were kind of rude when I tried to take some pics. Where do they think they are? At Largo? I don’t understand why taking pictures is not permitted in venues like these, as I almost never have this problem in Los Angeles, and I can’t imagine it was Jenny’s request?
Jenny Lewis took the stage alone, and opened with a stripped down version of ‘Silver Lining’, a song I didn’t recognize first – I have to say I haven’t really listened to that last and not very good Rilo Kiley album, ‘Under the Blacklight’ – but the song sounded quite different and totally her own played this way. What followed was a large chunk of her ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ album, with the Watson Twins on backup vocals (wearing matching red outfits and cowboy boots) and Johnathan Rice on acoustic guitar, who all appeared on stage at the second song ‘Run Devil Run’. With 7 songs in a row off her 2006 album, the crowd was cheering up and many were singing along the alt-country arrangements. I was on the right side, and the Watson twins were often hiding tiny Jenny from my view, but there is no doubt she had a strong and charming stage presence, like a queen in the middle of her little court, turning toward Johnny for a few riffs, beautifully harmonizing and doing some dance steps with the Twins. I couldn’t see the rest of the back of the stage but I think that Nik Freitas, who was the opening act I missed, was playing drums. The crowd was totally with her since the beginning after a few songs, everyone was clapping along the chorus ‘Happyyyy-y-y, oh so happyyy-y-y’
Last time I saw Jenny Lewis, she was promoting Jenny and Johnny album ‘I am having Fun Now’, and she was equally sharing the stage with Johnny, so it was a little funny to see him in the background now, occasionally singing on a few J & J’s songs, but not being the bold and hot-tempered frontman he had been. All of them seemed to have fun indeed, singing ‘Big Wave’, and then two new songs, ‘Just One of the Guys’, and ‘You Can’t Out Run ’Em’,… which means there could be a follow-up to the 2010 album? She said with a weary voice she wanted to dedicate this song to her dad who recently passed away, however the song didn’t sound like a downer at all.
The second part of the show was filled with many songs off her ‘Acid Tongue’ album, with, in particular, this alt-country-power-house favorite of mine, ‘See Fernando’. She took the bass for a mean bluesy rendition of ‘The Next Messiah’, another song about her father. Then, removing her country-blues musical outfit, she switched to piano for ‘Bad Man’s World’ – and everyone got excited when she sang ‘I am a bad, bad girl’ – then an unreleased song, ‘Head Underwater’. It sounded like a sort of Carole King tune of the 70s,.. I don’t know if I am totally off when I say this, but Jenny sit on piano for The Shirelles’ cover ‘Met Him on a Sunday’ during the encore, and she sang it like Laura Nyro’s own cover.
She talked about her issue with insomnia before a false piano start for ‘Jack Killed Mom’, and harmonized the gospel-y chorus with the Watson twins. Although the crowd was already very pleased,watching how my drunk boys had became more and more animated at each song, she had to do the ultimate crowd pleaser, a stripped down ‘Portion for Foxes’, and Handle with Care’ that she dedicated to everyone on stage.
Before they came back on stage for an encore, one of the happy-hour guy decided for some drunk reason to jump on stage and shout some rant in the mic before being caught by the massive security – this was actually written in the back of their shirts. But there was absolutely nothing massive about their efficiency if they were just able to shut down the photographers and not even able to prevent a guy walking on stage!
Jenny and the twins sounded fantastic, the show was dynamic and diverse, it was old school Jenny playing her alt-country tunes, adventurous Jenny, taking the mic and walking on the edge of the stage, quiet-intimate Jenny with her voice, guitar and her heartbreaking tunes, ‘come-on-Johnny’ Jenny, encouraging her boyfriend to sing a few lines,… she was revisiting her solo career, making a few steps back into her Rilo Kiley past, and showing a few glimpse of the future with new songs. And did I mention she looked cute? So cute that, when the show was over, everyone in the room acted as if they wanted to take a piece of her home.
1. Silver Lining (‘Under the Blacklight’ Rilo Kiley)
2. Run Devil Run
3. The Big Guns (written on the setlist although was it really played?)
4. Rise Up with Fists!!
5. The Charging Sky
6. You Are What you Love
7. Melt Your Heart
9. Just One of the Guys (New Jenny & Johnny song)
10. You Can’t Out Run ’Em (New Jenny & Johnny song)
11. Big Wave (Jenny & Johnny song)
13. See Fernando
14. The Next Messiah
15. Bad Man’s World
16. Head Underwater (new)
17. Jack Killed Mom
18. Portions For Foxes (‘More Adventurous’ Rilo Kiley)
19. Handle with Care
20. A better Son/Daughter
21. I Met Him on a Sunday (cover of The Shirelles)