Tag Archives: Rilo Kiley

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Laura Marling Brings Quiet Ferocity to Brooklyn Steel

May 22nd, 2017

Laura Marling – Brooklyn Steel – May 20, 2017


World-weary is a strange way to describe someone so young. But at just 27, Laura Marling seems to wear that term like a badge. With six full-length albums under her belt since 2008, the U.K. singer-songwriter has amassed a large catalog of intense folk songs that position her against the universe and brim with quiet contemplative ferocity. Oh yeah, otherworldly is also a great way to describe Marling. Her fantastic new album, Semper Femina, only further proves this, and on Saturday night, Brooklyn Steel was packed with fans eager to check out the new material live. L.A. four-piece Valley Queen, who blew away the crowd with a tight set of lean rock with a clear emphasis on hooks and ripping guitar gymnastics, opened the show. At times, Natalie Carol’s vocals and Shawn Morones’s guitar interplay reached the level of vintage Rilo Kiley, and her powerhouse voice took no prisoners as it burst through the stratosphere. Do yourself a favor and see these guys next time they roll through town. They definitely won’t be opening shows like this for very long.

Before Laura Marling took the stage, the house blared Leonard Cohen’s early work through the PA. It almost felt like a locker-room pep talk sung from the beyond. Each of the three microphone stands, for Marling and her two backup singers, were dressed with bouquets of flowers, and even the drum hardware was covered in enough vegetation to resemble a fire-escape garden. It was safe to assume that this would be an intimate affair. Marling and her band owed much of the night to Femina, playing eight of the album’s nine tracks, only omitting “Nouel.” They sounded fantastic on the new material and gave apt attention to the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink compositions by producer Blake Mills. But the real spellbinder of the night, of course, was Marling, and the show went from simply being special to “Oh, my God, are you seeing this?” when she treated the crowd to a number of songs accompanied by just a guitar. Her intricate fingerpicking and angelic voice mesmerized on older tunes like “Goodbye England (Covered in Snow),” and she threw in a jaw-dropping surprise cover of the Townes Van Zandt classic “For the Sake of the Song.”

The band returned to play a few more numbers and reworked the Once I Was an Eagle standout “Once” into an AM country ballad with spot-on three-part harmonies that got the biggest applause of the night. After the crowd settled down, Marling had to break the bad news: The show was coming to an end. “If you wanted an encore,” she said with a laugh, “then think of that last song … as the last song.” Choosing not to leave and comeback for more, Marling and her band ended the night with a rousing rendition of “Rambling Man,” off of her breakthrough album, I Speak Because I Can, leaving the crowd wanting more. —Patrick King | @MrPatKing

 

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Jenny Lewis Celebrates a Tenth Anniversary in Style

September 15th, 2016

Jenny Lewis – Capitol Theatre – September 14, 2016

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More than a decade ago in San Francisco, I patiently perched in a stairwell awaiting the live debut of Ms. Jenny Lewis’s initial solo effort, Rabbit Fur Coat. Sure I grew up watching Troop Beverly Hills, but what fascinated me was how she seamlessly dipped in and out of formidable bands like Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes and the Postal Service. Lewis always has been a thoughtful songwriter and it especially showed in her time with Rilo Kiley, however this next step pushed the singer into a career all her own. She and her backup singers, the Watson Twins, were late due to traffic but well worth the wait as they glided down the aisle holding candles to approach the stage—it was an unforgettable show in an intimate 250-seat venue. When word got out that the trio would take out the record for a 10th-anniversary spin, I had to be there. Previously selling out two Beacon Theatre shows last winter, Lewis returned with the twins to play Capitol Theatre last night.

The trio, donning the dresses from the album cover, entered stage right singing in harmony to open with “Run Devil Run,” candles in their hands just as they had years prior. The room was flooded with nostalgia as they played Rabbit Fur Coat in its entirety with a full band. Gems included lap-steel accompaniment on “Happy” and Lewis returning post-wardrobe change to croon the title track in a black embroidered jumpsuit complete with fringe. Although missing the backing vocals of M. Ward and Ben Gibbard, “Handle with Care” fleshed out the classic cover with additional guitar. The petite singer added a heavy dose of electric organ on “Born Secular” to fill the room, but it was her soaring vocals that sent chills to fans’ hearts.

After a brief intermission, Lewis emerged to play largely from her latest album, The Voyager. A gentleman politely asked if it was OK to stand for “Just One of the Guys” and was soon joined by another man. The catalog was broken by a cover of the Shirelles“I Met Him on a Sunday,” performed a cappella by the trio. But the real treat was a deep dive into the Rilo Kiley days for the soul-infused “I Never,” which Lewis dedicated to the Cap’s most frequent artist, Phil Lesh. The oldie was paired amongst her most recent work with New York City band NAF (Nice as Fuck), on “Door.” Dueling guitar solos concluded the evening on the crowd pleasing “She’s Not Me,” and there was no doubt that 10 years later, the storied album holds up. —Sharlene Chiu

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Nice as Fuck Connect with Sold-Out Crowd at The Bowery Ballroom

August 2nd, 2016

Nice as Fuck – The Bowery Ballroom – August 1, 2016

Nice as Fuck - The Bowery Ballroom - August 1, 2016
The band is called NAF—Nice as Fuck—a name that feels buried in layers of Twitter-ready hipster irony, but, maybe, quite possibly they really are that nice. The crowd at the sold-out early show at The Bowery Ballroom last night was certainly fond of the trio, a “supergroup” consisting of Jenny Lewis (vocals and keyboards), Erika Forster (bass) and Tennessee Thomas (drums). With the mid-summer sunlight still peeking in through the back windows, you might have said the show was “early as fuck,” but no matter, when the three took their places, not onstage but in the middle of the floor, all wearing the NAF uniform of Nice as Fuck T-shirts, army-fatigue jackets and black berets, the normally staid Ballroom security somehow became hype men, helping getting the crowd riled, the room was ready as fuck to party.

The performance was a run through of their self-titled album, nothing more, nothing less. “Runaway” opened the set, Forster’s bass filling the room from the center like some chocolate-bar nougat, Lewis’s vocals echoing from above and behind—and from where I was standing, as good a voice of God as you could ask for. She circled around throughout, making eye contact and sometimes physical contact with the crowd, like an indie-rock Oprah connecting with the masses. The audience, majority female, responded in kind: bouncing and singing and dancing along with Lewis and company.

“Cookie Lips” was introduced with the announcement that Forster was six-months pregnant, which made me appreciate what effect that rubber-band bass playing might have. The sound remained steady and simple throughout, bass and drums getting funky as fuck with Lewis imparting wisdom like “Get high, get low, get weird,” approaching a self-help mantra. Still, in this complicated world, the simplicity and fun of NAF was welcome. The set’s highlight came toward the end with “Guns,” Lewis and the rest of the crowd singing, “I don’t want to be afraid, put your guns away,” peace signs aloft, a message that was clear as fuck, in as nice a way as possible, of course. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Pip Cowley | pipcowleyshoots.com

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Jenny Lewis and Friends Charm Sold-Out Beacon Theatre

February 5th, 2016

Jenny Lewis – Beacon Theatre – February 4, 2016

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Track-by-track celebrations of iconic albums have a way of turning into respectful museum visits: look, nod, appreciate the graceful aging, shrug. So perhaps the most remarkable thing about Jenny Lewis’s salute to Rabbit Fur Coat at the Beacon Theatre last night is how immediate, how engrossing and how alive and un-nostalgic it felt. The exceptionally charming Lewis was already indie-rock royalty by the time she joined hands with the Watson Twins and M. Ward for Rabbit, but to hear the reunited ensemble—Lewis and the Watsons, with Ward ducking in and out to color and shade certain songs—tackled its 12 selections a decade later suggested even greater layers of depth to a collection of music that was already cavernous.

Rabbit Fur Coat is an album you take your time with, and it’s interesting to note how many critics back in 2006 were respectfully pleased but not gushing in their initial praise. The LP has soul, country and antsy indie-rock shades. It has lovely bluegrass-style harmonies. It sounds pastoral, almost twee, but you listen through that initial reaction and you hear the humor, the melancholy and the haunted aspects. Flow-wise, the show was the same as it’s been all tour: performing Rabbit Fur Coat start to finish, followed by an intermission and then a second set drawing on other Lewis albums, Rilo Kiley material and a stray cover or two. Dressing up the Beacon Theatre beyond its usual majestic charms seems like gilding the lily, but not in this case: warm purples, vibrant, sparkly outfits, rainbow-colored and wave-textured this and that.

From the start, the mood was spiritual. Lewis and the twins walked to the stage, singing “Run Devil Run,” using the Beacon’s natural acoustics, and then proceeded to balance the sometimes-overlapping tones of the church and the barroom, whether in Ward providing spindly guitar on “Happy” (and the audience joining a sing-along during its reprise eight songs later), or the spooked waltz of the title track played with the barest accompaniment, or the country-gallop-’60s-girl-group-psychedelic-folk mélange of “You Are What You Love,” or the now-famous cover of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle with Care” that infused more Laurel Canyon soul into the original while keeping its edges rightfully burnt. As ever, Lewis sang lines like “Are we killing time?/ Are we killing each other?” like they couldn’t come from anyone else: sad, philosophical, determined, faintly wry, probably all of those things. The standouts among Lewis and team’s superb second frame included “I Never,” a beloved Rilo Kiley number, and “Red Bull and Hennessy,” a newer tune that’s been rightfully compared to Fleetwood Mac. By the end, it was a choose-your-own-highlight” kind of night—the best kind, with much to consider.
—Chad Berndtson | @cberndtson

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Night Terrors of 1927 Tomorrow Night at Mercury Lounge

April 7th, 2015

Former Rilo Kiley guitarist Blake Sennett and former Honorary Title frontman Jarrod Gorbel met through mutual friends in 2010, but they didn’t begin making music together until after Gorbel left Brooklyn for Los Angeles two years later. Initially they were writing songs just to do something different than either of them had previously done—neither intended for it to become a new band. “I wanted to create something with someone, not just on my own like I always had. When I moved to L.A., I called Blake and was like, ‘Hey, can we just get together and write a song. I don’t know for what or why.’ And that was that,” said Gorbel. But they were so happy with their new material that they launched the electronic-tinged rock duo Night Terrors of 1927. Their debut EP, Guilty Pleas (stream it below), came out in 2013. Spin praised it as an “anthemic debut,” further mentioning its “open-hearted, high-drama glory.” And earlier this year, Night Terrors of 1927 (above, doing “Running in Place”) released their debut full-length, Everything’s Coming Up Roses (stream it below). According to AllMusic, “Sennett and Gorbel have bridged their seasoned musical pasts into a sweet pop music present.” See them play the late show tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge. Minneapolis three-piece Strange Names open.

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Jenny Lewis Entertainingly Shows Depth at Terminal 5

November 6th, 2014

Jenny Lewis – Terminal 5 – November 5, 2014

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(Photo: Eddie Bruiser)

In the years since Jenny Lewis’s band Rilo Kiley broke up, she has become a bona fide solo artist, honing and sharpening her songwriting skills and delivering her lyrics with a signature hint of twang and melancholy. In support of The Voyager, Lewis’s latest solo record, last night the artist treated a sold-out Terminal 5 to a lively, rainbow-hued evening of material from the album, complete with crowd-pleasing detours down memory lane to some Rilo Kiley favorites.

As an onstage presence, Lewis is confident and eminently jovial—strutting and posturing playfully during “Just One of the Guys” and “The Next Messiah,” and regaling the crowd with a comedic story that inspired to the vacation-gone-awry song “Aloha & the Three Johns.” Lewis’s fun-loving stage persona during these moments was an interesting counterpoint to the themes within much of her musical output over the years—songs that explore a cynical or wistful take on love and marriage, personal insecurities and perceived failures. The inner life that emerged in these songs added a layer of depth and intrigue to the stage show’s cheerful pop veneer while also providing a nice hint of irony during certain moments, particularly when large colorful balloons cascaded down on the crowd like giant gumballs as Lewis sang “Love U Forever,” a song with subtext far bleaker
than the title suggests.

Lewis closed out the night with The Voyager’s “She’s Not Me,” a completely catchy breakup song with an easy-listening vibe that nonetheless simmers with a certain sadness on the album. Yet when Lewis performed the number last night, smiling and dancing with her band, it felt much more empowering, almost triumphant—another example of the performer’s many understated complexities. —Alena Kastin

(Jenny Lewis plays the Space at Westbury tonight.)

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The Postal Service: Worth the Wait

June 17th, 2013

The Postal Service – Barclays Center – June 14, 2013


Ten years is a long time to wait, and regret burns deep. For this writer, not seeing the Postal Service back in 2003 at a small San Francisco venue still hurts—a lot. So I was psyched when rumblings of a tour were announced to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary reissue of Give Up. You might have heard the tale of Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) meeting Jimmy Tamborello (Dntel) on a fateful night in Los Angeles. What coyly began as a request for Gibbard’s vocals on Dntel’s “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan” blossomed into an exchange of musical ideas through the United States Postal Service. The two lead members never would have thought their fledgling project would amount to one of the most successful albums for the Sub Pop label, but that’s exactly what happened.

Fast-forward a decade as a choral prelude welcomed Gibbard, Tamborello, Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley) and Laura Burhenn (the Mynabirds) to the stage of a sold-out Barclays Center on a Friday night. Gibbard offered a hearty “Hiya, Brooklyn!” before diving into “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight.” Lewis, accessorized with a puffy white cap and saddle shoes, promptly threw the hat into the crowd on “We Will Become Silhouettes.” And in a rare turn from his mixers, Tamborello closed out “Sleeping In” echoing the chorus: “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in.” Gibbard took a moment to thank the audience, jokingly, “for coming to this tiny venue to listen to us play music from 10 years ago.”

Having a great time together onstage, old friends Gibbard and Lewis shimmied close for the duet “Nothing Better,” which he introduced as “three sides to every story.” And fans cheered the whirlpool of sound twinkling with drumbeats during “Recycled Air.” But the show didn’t just consist of material from their lone LP. The Postal Service also did songs like “Be Still My Heart,” from the We Will Become Silhouettes EP, and a cover of Beat Happening’s “Our Secret” before the crowd erupted for the beloved “Such Great Heights.” All kidding aside, Gibbard plainly laid out Give Up’s success: “This record still means something to you.” And as I received texts like “this album takes me back” and “I had chills,” from friends scattered around the arena, his point was proved again and again. And then with a mellifluous crescendo, the Postal Service ended their main set with “Natural Anthem,” burying my decade-old regret. —Sharlene Chiu

Photos courtesy of JC McIlwaine | jcmcilwaine.com