Jenny Lewis and Friends Charm Sold-Out Beacon TheatreFebruary 5th, 2016
Jenny Lewis – Beacon Theatre – February 4, 2016
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