My roommate/cousin, in addition to providing valuable guidance to this former Rock Band/Guitar Hero neophyte, is a pretty good sport about coming to shows with me. It's only fair, then, that I reciprocate when possible--in this case, to see Jenny Lewis.
Jenny Lewis, Herbst Theatre, October 28, 2008: Even as a so-called young 'un, I enjoyed, at best, a tenuous connection with youth culture (exhibit A: my teenage advocacy of Nick Lowe), and it's only gotten worse through the years. Not that I'm particularly fixated on trends, but this mindset can be problematic when you draw your lifeblood from discovering new, exciting bands or performers.
In the case of Rilo Kiley, all I know is that at some point, I started hearing more about them, but I may have associated them with the likes of The O.C. (the television series) and assumed there was no place for me in their fanbase. This extended to Jenny Lewis' solo career. (See also: Death Cab for Cutie.) Mind you, this judgement has nothing to do with the quality of the music--only my silly hangups over the intended audience.
Of course, this isn't the first time--nor will it be the last--that my shortsightedness has kept me away from listening to worthwhile music for longer than need be (hello, Son Volt!). I'm still not convinced that I'll nurture more than a passing familiarity with Rilo Kiley's material, but I wouldn't mind lingering over Jenny's solo catalog.
I freely admit that it all starts with Jenny's captivating voice, despite my ambivalence over female singers in general. On a handful of songs, her singing was so smooth, though, that the tunes almost veered into adult contemporary, but they were the exception rather than the rule. At their best, her vocals ebb and flow with such ease and grace that you assume the words are pure autobiography--how else could anyone sing so convincingly of such events and recollections?
Personally, I neither know nor care how much of her words are rooted in true events; all that matters is that they sound like they are. I can't think of a better example of this than the song "Acid Tongue," featuring Jenny on acoustic guitar and the rest of her band gathered around her and a single microphone to contribute harmonies. Then again, I'm a sucker for that busking vibe.
She filled out her set of tracks from her two solo albums with the Gram Parsons cover "Love Hurts," accompanied by her boyfriend and bandmate Johnathon Rice, and a new song whose title I didn't catch. Though Jenny is often considered an indie rock pinup, the most ardent fans at this show appeared to be of the female persuasion. One shouted out a marriage proposal from the balcony, though most seemed content to cheer her on. I can hardly blame them; her mix of talent, confidence, and individuality is hard to resist.
The show featured two openers. Pierre de Reeder, also from Rilo Kiley, kicked off the proceedings, and Beechwood Sparks filled out the roster. Pierre turned out a catchy, well-paced set, but I can't say the same for Beechwood Sparks. I wanted to like them, especially now that I've cast off most of the Brit-leaning preferences that dominated back when I saw them open for Saint Etienne (or am I hallucinating that show?). Instead, I found it hard to maintain my interest as one song flowed into the next.
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