Wednesday, October 1, 2014
This evening I had the pleasure of seeing Jenny Lewis' first of five Austin-area performances over the next two weeks. Tonight she returned to the Austin City Limits Television stage in advance of her return to the ACL Festival Stage. The last time Ms. Lewis performed for ACL TV was with her, now defunct, band Rilo Kiley, which lead many of us to speculate that she wouldn't be performing any songs by her former band but we were wrong. Oh, how very wrong we were. As you can see from the setlist above, the night started with a somewhat slower, somewhat funkier take on Silver Linings then moved right into Rise Up with Fists. For a J. Lew fan like me, I was already in heaven.
Jenny Lewis - She's Not Me video via YouTube
Before tonight's performance I ran into my friend Nakia, who mentioned that he doesn't like how Jenny Lewis gets shoved into an Americana/Alt-Country box and he objected to classifying her in that way. It got me thinking as I listened to the set, what sort of music is this? It's not really country, it's not really rock, it's not folk or blues and it's sort of all of it at the same time. It's whatever kind of music Bonnie Raitt, Linda Rondstat or Stevie Nicks play. I tried to take notes during the set to help me write this review and under The New Messiah I wrote, "Honky Tonk Gospel Funk Revival," which kind of sums things up.
The New Messiah was definitely a set highlight but I feel like it might get cut from the broadcast just for sheer length. I could also see it being the number they run the credits over. Regardless of how it ends up in your living room, it gave me chills to hear it in person. Bad Man's World was another highlight for me. The song is so sparse, bluesy and plaintive. It really shows off Jenny Lewis' crystal clear vocal tone and the woman who sang harmonies with her on that tune was incredible. It sounded like Jenny said her name was "Allie Prass?" but nothing came up when I tried to fact check that so you'll just have to believe me I suppose.
The song Late Bloomer was one which stood out to me as a great example of what makes Jenny Lewis so great. The song is hooky, it sounds instantly classic and it's a movie in a three and half minute tune. There are many things to admire about Lewis' songwriting. Her ability to make horrible things sound beautiful, her gift for turning a phrase and her ability to spin a tale are just a few.
Jenny Lewis closed her set with a gorgeous version of Acid Tongue, with herself, a guitar and her 5-piece band + Jonathan Rice singing harmonies around a single microphone. That song is already incredibly powerful but tonight's performance brought a tear to my eye. That was followed by an encore of With Arms Outstretched performed by Lewis and two of the woman from her band.
Tonight's performance will be a part of Austin City Limits Television's 40th Season on PBS. The season premiers this Saturday, October 4th with Beck but don't miss the special tribute to the show airing the evening prior. I suspect the episode with Jenny Lewis will be split with another artist and I'll be curious to see who she is paired with. I know Ryan Adams will be taping for the 40th Season as well but I feel like he might get a full hour? I don't know how those things are decided.
If you didn't get a chance to see Jenny Lewis' performance this evening, you can still catch her Official ACL Fest Late Night Show at Stubb's. She's also playing both weekends of ACL Fest as well as a SOLD OUT show at Gruene Hall. In other words, homegirl is working it.