with Speedy Ortiz
The Beacham; Orlando, FL • May 10, 2015
Jenny Lewis is too perfect. It’s a problem, for some. She can write, she can sing, she plays multiple instruments, she’s beautiful, she can seduce a crowd with a simple sultry smile, and she unfailingly puts on the kind of live show that are the reason we GO to live shows. If this were high school, she’d be the cool girl who hung with both the popular kids and the burnouts and was nice to everybody. We’d all either want her, or want to be her.
Personally, I have no problem whatsoever with her many skills nor the fact that her concerts (be them on her own, or with Rilo Kiley, or The Postal Service) are always transcendent, but for some it can be intimidating. “She sounds too perfect,” I hear some say, as if that were a valid criticism. To those in search of the imperfect performance I say this: go see a bunch of shitty shows and then maybe you’ll fully appreciate what you have in Jenny Lewis.
On her current tour, one which has her dropping down in Florida no less then four times, Lewis has been hand picking the opening bands from the vast pool of current female songwriters making killer music right now. Torres, Olivia Jean, and Nikki Lane have all been featured, and in Orlando we had Speedy Ortiz — a band that even Lewis herself admitted to being super excited about seeing.
Led by the enigmatic Sadie Dupuis, Speedy Ortiz give 90’s influenced pop and fuzz indie rock a poetic shine. Imagine Veruca Salt or Helium with songs written by someone who both went to MIT for math and music and has an MFA in poetry. There’s unpredictability in the melodies and in the warping guitar work, but underneath it all are clean pop songs that stick to the brain immediately. “Raising the Skate,” with it’s chorus of I’m not bossy/I’m the boss/ Shooter not the shot sung over a wave of feedback is a subtle yet bold feminist proclamation that has hidden itself inside of great indie rock song.
Stepping out once more in the custom designed white suit with its rainbow motif that has become her signature outfit for this tour supporting The Voyager, Jenny Lewis began the set at the piano before sauntering downstage to hand deliver the first of several roses to ladies in the audience. After opening with “Head Underwater,” she dipped into her Rilo Kiley pool for a pair of songs, much to the approval of the packed house — many of whom were too young to have ever gotten the chance to see the band, who split up 5 years ago.
For that matter, many fans seemed too young even to know songs from her first solo record, 2006’s Rabbit Fut Coat — including “The Charging Sky,” a song that she wrote about Orlando. “I wrote this song for you guys… no, really, I did!” She’s clearly catching the ears of a new crowd, but those of us who’ve been around the block with her a few times were giddy like school girls when she name dropped our town with such sincerity. She loves us, she really loves us!
Giddy as school children to be knocking around the big inflatable balloon balls she tossed out near the end of the set, too. What is it about smacking around a big balloon that tickles us so? It’s a simple way to make everyone in the room feel like an 8 year old, and it totally works as a way to unite the room. She used to do that with Rilo Kiley (I remember silver balloons being tossed during “Silver Lining”), and she’s continuing the tradition now for a new audience.
Before closing out a heavenly performance with the ethereal acoustic “Acid Tongue,” she played the new song that she first debuted with Haim at a fundraiser in Los Angeles last month, “Girl on Girl.” If that song is an indication of the next record Jenny’s got in the works, I can’t bloody wait!