Jenny Lewis – Capitol Theatre – September 14, 2016
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