LIVE REVIEW: Jenny Lewis @ The Beacon Theatre


The Beacon Theatre‘s playbill for Jenny Lewis’s concert last Thursday displayed a curious itinerary: M. Ward at 8PM, Rabbit Fur Coat at 9PM, and a “voyage through the past, present and future” at 10PM.

“Voyage” was a reference to both Lewis’s latest solo album The Voyager and her musical journey from 1998 to the present — a trajectory that became palpable as the night unfolded.

2016 marks 10 years since the release of Lewis’s first solo album Rabbit Fur Coat, which was just reissued on red vinyl. The record broke from her work as lead singer of indie-pop band Rilo Kiley, incorporating country and folk influences and featuring collaborations with indie-folk legend M. Ward, former Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst, and alt-country sister duo The Watson Twins.


Two of these three collaborators shared the stage with Lewis Thursday night. M. Ward’s opening set, which included a cover of Tony Martin’s “I Get Ideas” that was featured on HBO’s “Girls” and a track from his upcoming album No Rain, delivered the solid performance expected of an artist who has been releasing albums since 1999. He shone brightest, though, alongside the headliner.

For part two of the performance, Lewis entered with The Watson Twins, each holding a candle and harmonizing on “Run Devil Run,” Rabbit Fur Coat‘s first track. In fact, the entire segment followed the album’s order, ending with a reprise of the bittersweet ballad “Happy.” Ward contributed his guitar to several numbers and sang in “Handle with Care.”


At age 40, Lewis is no longer the damaged former child actor who belted her quarter-life angst as Rilo Kiley’s frontwoman. The band, which dissolved in 2011, explored unrequited love, suicide, and other themes that let millennial teenagers know at least someone somewhere was as sad as them.

Rabbit Fur Coat tackles more mature experiences like growing disillusioned with religion, coming to terms with a dysfunctional upbringing, and overcoming fear of intimacy. In its 12 tracks, Lewis makes peace with her troubled past and accepts responsibility over her future.

Lewis’s performance style has paralleled her personal and musical growth. She shouts less and smiles more than in her Rilo Kiley days. Like M. Ward, she’s been making music since the late 90’s, and she commanded the stage with the professionalism and ease only a music industry veteran can project.

The flip side of Lewis’s musical evolution is that she comes off less connected to her older songs. During the concert’s third portion, “Silver Lining” felt detached without her former sass.


Throughout the evening, Lewis’s lyrics came to life, taking on new meanings amid her psychedelic set. Rabbit Fur Coat‘s eponymous track, which sounds like an amusing cautionary tale about materialism in recordings, became an intimate confession about her estrangement from her mother as she sang it alone with no instruments but her guitar. “It Wasn’t Me,” a cynical song about dodging responsibility, became funny as she lackadaisically belted, “it doesn’t count because I don’t care.”

At one point, though, she actually altered the words. In “The Charging Sky,” where the recording describes her parents as  “spreading infection, somehow we’re not affected,” she instead sang, “somehow I’m not affected.”

Whatever her intentions, I couldn’t help but read this slight rewording as a testament to Lewis’s transformation from part of a “we” to a freestanding “I,” connected to but independent from her former band and upbringing.

LIVE REVIEW: Jenny Lewis @ The Roxy

Jenny Lewis

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Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis performing at Shaky Knees Festival in 2014 (Photo by Robb D. Cohen/Invision/AP)

Much anticipation led up to Jenny Lewis’ May 6th stop at The Roxy. After touring with The Postal Service for most of 2013, Lewis has only granted her fans five solo shows, and Tuesday would mark her first appearance at  The Roxy in 2014. Long awaited, and much overdo, she returned with new material to make audiences squeal.

Having fallen hard for Jenny Lewis in my late teens, my first time at The Roxy (or in West Hollywood for that matter) couldn’t have been more filled with excitement, as my adolescent dreams would coming to fruition in an instant. After perusing her setlists from the Bridge School Benefit and much earlier shows, there really was no predicting what Jenny was going to pull out of her hat. All anyone really knew was that she was on at 9:30, and her opener, described as magical, was on at 9:23.

And magical he was! The rather cheeky magician performed a shrinking card act, a self-mending string trick, and ended with a cutout paper snowflake that eventually read The Voyager, the title of Jenny Lewis’ upcoming album. When the magic act ended, the curtain dropped suddenly and the real anxiety began.

If there is anything that is certain about Jenny Lewis fans, it is that their love for her does not stray from the extreme. I found myself gushing with fellow fans moments before the curtain rose, the type of gushing where you are unknowingly blushing and clutching your heart in swoon. When the curtain rose, the crowd erupted and Jenny sat down at the keyboard for the first song. I couldn’t help but notice that the performer had barely aged in the last ten years and is as energetic and on point than ever.

She opened with “Head Under Water,” a solid choice considering that the wonderfully upbeat piano ballad with a kick-drum rhythm got the crowd moving. After her first song she couldn’t help but crack an infectious smile; the crowd went nuts. She remarked  how long it had been and then busted out a Rilo Kiley classic, “Silver Lining.” Now, for me, the Rilo Kiley songs hit me hard, and by the gasp of the crowd, I could tell I was not alone. These were the most poignant moments of the night, and they warranted the best sing-alongs.

Lewis’ performance is magnetic; when she stands at the mic with her guitar, her eyes move from person to person, making intimate eye contact with every single fan, even if just for a split second. It is evident that this woman has spent most of her life in the spotlight because she certainly knows how to command the attention.

She prefaced every new song with hints about their themes, at one point divulging that Megadeth frontman, Dave Mustaine, is her spirit animal, confessing that, after all, she and Mustaine have the same hairstyle. Her anecdotes made the new material all the more enjoyable, which could have been difficult for a less gracious artists with such a beloved back catalogue. I’ve been to shows before where the artist plays new material, perhaps too heavy-handedly. There’s a fine line between giving the fans some new material to get excited about and inundating them with material that they’re not yet familiar with. Lewis did a superb job of mixing up her setlist with her classics, from Rilo Kiley and her own solo repertoire, and the new stuff.

To her credit, the highlights of the show were clearly the new material, which is so fresh and reinvigorating that you can almost (almost) forgive Jenny for taking so long to release a new album. As she hasn’t actually set a released a date for The Voyager, fans will have to continue to be patient. Also, she pulled out a very special Rilo Kiley treat when she played “A Man/ Me/ Then Jim.” Her encore was enchanting, as her new band stepped out from behind their instruments to sing backup vocals on “Acid Tongue.” She closed out the show with a new song, which I felt was a very risky move. But, as expected, she nailed it, because “She’s Not Me” is such a rockin’ jam.

From what I can gather about The Voyager, it is going to arguably be her strongest album to date. Acid Tongue saw Jenny Lewis honing in on her sound, and this new material sounds as if Jenny will be reinventing that sound in a very retrospective sort of way. Whatever it ends up being, I’m more than glad that she’s back and will be on the look out for more post-album release tour dates;  I will certainly be seeing her again.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]