Jenny Lewis at First Avenue, 8/3/14

Jenny Lewis
with Apache Relay
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Sunday, August 3, 2014

Jenny Lewis has provided the sound to so many projects over the past 15 years in many other bands. On Sunday night she was back in Minneapolis to show that she has enough charm to carry a night heavy with anticipation on her tiny shoulders -- weird bathrobe and all.

Opening with her newest single "Just One of the Guys," Lewis showcased her songwriting skills. Her writing is subtle, yet very declarative in how she sees herself now that's she's older and more mature. The line from the opening track "I'm just another lady without a baby" keys into the essence of her newest album. When she wails it out, it doesn't come off as remorseful or self-pitying; she sings it more as a matter of fact, and she sings it with a smile.

In an industry that is very much about looks, concerns about growing older are out there. But in typical Jenny Lewis fashion, she brushed them aside. Perhaps that's why she has such a huge following of young women who connect to what she is saying.

Longtime fans were in for a treat when she pulled out old tracks like Rilo Kiley's "Silver Lining," and screams began when the first guitar notes were drawn out. The piece is pure indie-rock fun with its bright guitars under Jenny's sexy drawl. As she commanded the stage with her flowing robe and dancing, Lewis seemed to having more fun than she did in her Rilo Kiley days.

"Head Under Water" is the most hook-laden track off her new album, housing a sanguine refrain: "There's a little bit of magic, everybody has it/ There's a little bit of sand left in the hourglass." The track was something that Jenny said she really gravitated towards when writing and was her opener until this tour. Another track off The Voyager, "Late Bloomer," was a highlight. The song is pulled along by Jenny's voice, and it's fantastic narrative songwriting.
Lewis sometimes played a temptress onstage, but on "She's Not Me," Lewis derided those types. She sang, "She's not me, she's easy," a song in which she embodied a woman whose lover has rejected her for someone who's less, well, demanding. "Bet you tell her I'm crazy," she adds. While the tempo is upbeat, this song succeeds in packing an emotional impact, as all of Lewis' best music does.

Some deep cuts into her catalog came with some Jenny Lewis/Watson Twins collaborations in "Rise Up With Fists!!" and "You Are What You Love," but the best treat, after closing with "A Better Son/Daughter," was her encore which opened with her band around a single mic and Lewis commanding the stage for a stripped down version of "Acid Tongue." Balloons -- not provided by Jenny and Co. -- were tossed around in the audience and kept popping throughout the song. One popped right in her face during the bridge, causing her to stop the song and quietly say, "Oh, shit," into the mic then break out into giggles. Pure class.  

Critic's bias: After my conversation with Lewis, I came to the show with some trepidation, thinking it was going to be an evening laced with cynicism. I was happy to be proven wrong. Jenny Lewis is amazingly fun to watch onstage.

The crowd: An interesting mix of older folks, hipsters, and young college-aged girls.

Overheard in the crowd: "Why is she wearing a wizard robe?" "Because she was in The Wizard!"

Random notebook dump: A spotting of James Mercer by a superfan in the crowd after his Broken Bells show at the State Theatre. The fan came up to my friend and said, "I don't know who you are, but I just had to tell someone that I just met James Mercer. I took a selfie with him!"


Just One of the Guys
Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley song)
Head Under Water
Slippery Slopes
Pretty Bird
The Moneymaker (Rilo Kiley song)
The Next Messiah
Rise Up With Fists!! (Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins cover)
Late Bloomer
You Are What You Love (Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins cover)
A Man/Me/Then Jim (Rilo Kiley song)
Aloha and the Three Johns
Love U Forever
A Better Son/Daughter (Rilo Kiley song)

Acid Tongue
She's Not Me

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