Concert date: 04/17/2008
Run date: 06/03/2008
The Concourse at the San Francisco Design Center is an interesting venue in that one can hear the music -- and even partially see the stage -- from the sidewalk outside the front doors. But there weren’t many fans trying to catch Rilo Kiley in this low-rent way – the concourse was packed as fans jockeyed for position to get close to indie rock queen Jenny Lewis. Sure the boys in the band are all skilled, but it’s the charismatic and multi-talented redhead that makes Rilo Kiley go. Lewis’ diverse voice allows the quartet from Silverlake to mix rock, pop, R&B, folk and alternative into a tantalizing musical stew.
It’s opening night of the band’s spring tour, so there’s a question as to whether things will start off tentatively. The band opens strong with the jangly hook of “Close Call,” although Lewis and the boys seem perhaps a bit distracted that the mix isn’t dialed in quite right. Lewis’ majestic voice is ready to go, though, and the packed throng is right there with her. She switches over to bass for the band’s hit “The Moneymaker,” which rocks solidly, but bassist Pierre de Reeder, now on guitar, isn’t heard well.
Things click into place on “Dreamworld,” as guitarist Blake Sennett takes the lead vocal for a modern twist on Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac that just plain sparkles – the sound is dialed in now, and the band is able to start building momentum. The tune recalls Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” but flips the roles with the male lead vocal. Drummer Jason Boesel keeps a tight beat while Sennett’s guitar shimmers across the venue as Lewis adds in some sugary backing vocals.
Lewis goes pure frontwoman for “Breaking Up,” dancing out front with just a microphone as she blends a sexy go-go girl vibe with that of a strong independent feminist. The crowd may as well be in the palm of her hand as she gets all the ladies singing “it feels good to be free.” The band ends the tune with an a capella reprise of the “feels good to be free” line, which soars to earn a standing O.
Later, it’s just Lewis and Sennett on acoustic guitar for “The Absence of God,” a melodious nugget particularly memorable for the charming line where Lewis sings, “We could be daytime drunks if we wanted, but we’d never get anything done that way, baby.”
Lewis is back on bass for “It’s a Hit,” the lead track from the band’s 2004 album More Adventurous. The wry commentary on music biz pressure to deliver hits remains one of the band’s most melodic tunes, and gets the whole crowd moving. Lewis and Boesel lock into a tight groove and the band rocks the tune out better than the recorded version, showing they know how to open things up in a live setting.
Lewis moves over to keyboards for “Silver Lining,” a hit single and one of the catchiest tunes from 2007’s Under the Blacklight. She gets most of the crowd to participate in the song’s clap intro and then slays with the song’s unique vocal vibe that mixes tenderness with dismissiveness. More than just another breakup song, the tune is a showcase for Lewis’ dynamic voice and entrancing charisma. The energy is raised higher still by giant confetti-filled balloons that are released into the crowd, adding a festive party vibe to the proceedings.
The set clocks in at about 80 minutes, not particularly lengthy but with a high quality across the board. The gorgeous title track from Under the Blacklight is conspicuous in its absence, but any such thoughts are left in the dust by the scintillating encore performance of “Portions for Foxes.” Lewis and the band not only rock the house one more time but demonstrate that they can do a little jamming when they want to. Lewis’ voice shines over the song’s uptempo, melodic chord changes while Sennett, de Reeder and Boesel all take the opportunity to crank their efforts up a notch. Sennett rips off a smoking solo and the band then segues into a spacey ambient jam that may have seemed out of left field to some but is pulled off perfectly. The show is ended on a high note and Rilo Kiley’s 2008 spring tour is off and running.