Last Night: Jenny Lewis and Heartless Bastards at The Granada

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Jenny Lewis, Heartless Bastards
Granada Theater
June 23, 2009

Better than: The Gospel According to Patti LaBelle.

For photos from the show, be sure and  check out our slideshow too.

If not for the crashing rumble of IPA bottles getting tossed into the trash punctuating each song throughout Jenny Lewis' set at the Granada last night, the audience might have walked away sober with the feeling they'd just been saved by the Minister of Daisy Dukes.

Jenny's hour-and-a-half set came mostly from her southern gospel-esque new album, Acid Tongue. And the nearly sold-out audience was on its best behavior for the L.A. woman--according to the performer, the crowd gave "Austin a run for their money." You'd have to imagine so; each song Lewis performed ended in a furious roar lasting long enough to let the singer know how much the crowd appreciated every sound she uttered.

The show started out on the right foot with a fine performance of "Fernando." Each swing of Jenny's neck or flutter of her hands sent the band into fiery rhythms and cued the next beat.

From that opener, to the twisted love song "Jack Killed Mom," to a new song called "Just Like Zeus," it was clear this emotional, sometimes-violent woman, isn't someone to mess with.

And, altogether, it was a set of astonishingly impressive cohesion; each song seemed to melt into the next. Credit the band for that work, even if the backing musicians exited behind the drum set by the fourth song and left Lewis center stage in an intimate side-stance, two beaming spotlights highlighting her every move as her spellbinding voice hypnotized the audience with an eerie performance of "Pretty Bird." (Cheers to the people aware enough to gently slide their empties in the garbage.)

At one point, Lewis mentioned that she was looking for a spirit guide--otherwise, the audience might have been following the blind down some lonesome, dusty road. But Lewis looked like she knew what she was doing, though; she enraptured the crowd with her balladeering, and her captive listeners seemed like they would have done anything she asked of them--including gleefully taking part in a sing-a-long-style chorus for a Rilo Kiley song she performed, "Silver Lining."

Two backup girls, Miss Danielle and Barbara, along with guitarist Jonathan Rice, complimented Jenny on several songs with the cowbell, harmonica, tambourine and guitars. Rice and Lewis also played a game of cat and mouse with the lyrics in "The Next Messiah" before ending the set.

After, the crowd practically cried for her to start an encore. When she finally sauntered out with her backups, they circled around a microphone, Soggy Bottom-style, for a song dedicated to President Obama ("Acid Tongue"). Then Lewis addressed the adoring audience. 

"You guys are crazy, man," she noted with a surprised tone to her voice before counting off the encore's second song, "The Big Wave," a track recently recorded at a pecan farm in El Paso.

It's just too bad that the most dancing anyone could do was the trusty, old shoulder-shake--there wasn't much room in the crowded theater for grooving.

So for those still holding out and claiming that Rilo Kiley will always have your heart? Reevaluate your relationship. Lewis definitely has a good thing going with this band, too..

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Though I've been a fan for years, I have yet to see Rilo Kiley take up the stage. Last night's show was a stunning performance, though. So if you missed the show, have a car at the ready and don't have work in the morning? Catch her in Houston tonight at Warehouse Live.

By the Way: Heartless Bastards couldn't have been a more fitting opener. I had only heard "All This Time" courtesy of a free Lollapalooza sampler heading into the night, but they totally outshined any expectations I'd had. The music has enough of a blues feel to be heartless without being cold.

Set List:
1. "Fernando"
2. "The Charging Sky"
3. "You are What you Love"
4. "Pretty Bird"
5. "Carpetbaggers"
6. "Jack Killed Mom"
7. "Trying my Best to Love You"
8. "Silver Lining"
9. "Happy"
10. "Rise up With Fists!!"
11. "Just Like Zeus" (new)
12. "Handle Me With Care"
13. "Next Messiah"

E1. "Acid Tongue"
E2. "The Big Wave"
E3. "Sing a Song For Them"

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