The Granada was packed Tuesday night as indie idol Jenny Lewis prepared to take the stage. As sweaty fans poured into the theater and blocked the aisles and stairways, it became clear that in the event of any sort of natural disaster I would most definitely be dead. But for Jenny Lewis, that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I arrived an hour before she began her set, and the best spot I could find was on the second tier. But the energy of her show managed to float up to the balcony. She spent all night dancing about the stage in typical Jenny Lewis fashion – making time to greet her front-row fans and even chat the crowd up a bit. She was careful to stroke our Texan egos – supplanting “Dallas” for “Atlanta” in “The Charging Sky,” telling us we were louder than the Austin crowd, etc. She herself looked like quite the Southern girl, decked out in her Daisy Dukes and red shoes that matched perfectly with her long red locks. (She should seriously consider putting a patent on those fringe bangs…)
Seeing her beau Jonathan Rice on stage with her was quite a pleasant surprise. He was instrumental (pun very much intended) in creating her latest album, Acid Tongue, and his vocals and guitar were a nice complement to her performance. I’d actually seen him play solo at that same venue a few years ago, but this show was an entirely new beast. He confidently shared the spotlight with Jenny and was invaluable to last night’s show.
Drummer Barbara Gruska was also a great addition to the band. Aside from playing with indie acts like Obi Best and Anni Rossi, she played on Acid Tongue. I’ve never seen her in a live performance before, but I was quite impressed. She danced, she sang, she drummed, and she even played the guitar. That chick’s clearly got a lot of talent.
With Jenny Lewis’ solo act, she somehow perches atop the fine line between hokey country and indie pop. This child actor turned musician has proved that she can just about do it all musically, and last night’s set reflected that diversity. Her set spanned the gamut of her extensive repertoire – she played from her latest solo album, her Watson Twins days, her Rilo Kiley collection and she even weaved in some new songs.
Personal highlights of the set were as follows:
- A solo rendition of “Silver Lining” that was both captivating and intimate amidst such a large audience.
- A cover of “Handle With Care” that was a hit despite the absence of Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst and M. Ward, who all recorded on the album version of that song.
- The eight-minute dance sequence that was “The Next Messiah” – Rice really showed his stuff on this one.
“Acid Tongue” served as the first encore, which Jenny dedicated to opening act Heartless Bastards and to President Obama. Her five bandmates joined her onstage, providing backup vocals as they all huddled together in a half-circle facing the audience. It felt more like we were all sitting around a campfire together than watching an indie legend serenade us. And she finished the night with a track which the group had recently recorded in our very own state.
My only complaint about last night’s show was that the set was a short one. But then again, I could watch Jenny Lewis play all day and all night and still want more.