Jenny Lewis’ Glamorous Rock

Jenny2For a woman whose songs are so direct, and whose voice is so clear, Jenny Lewis also likes to dress up a bit. So for the stop in her On the Line tour at The Anthem in D.C., she wore a glamorous form-hugging gold lamé dress as if it were dug out of an trunk from Old Hollywood.

Lewis, 43, began her career decades ago as a child actress (she was in Camp Beverly Hills, you know), so that might actually have been the case. But the creative Lewis likes to put on theatrical airs on stage as easily as she likes to shift musical moods.

And since she entered the music scene as a distinctive indie voice in the short-lived but beloved band Rilo Kiley, she’s tried spare folk, twisted gospel soul, irresistible straight ahead rock and now, occasionally, the kind of catchy club music that tends to come from dozens of newly arrived divas with single names.

But mostly there is that voice – so pure and so very well amplified and carried through the hall. Those who’ve complained about Anthem acoustics must not have heard this show – one of the most beautifully balanced I’ve heard in town. But her pipes were also aided by a loving crowd who remained utterly hushed as she sang, only to burst up singing along and dancing, as they were encouraged, toward the end.

With a five piece band behind her all night, there were also a couple of string players on hand to begin the night with the warning siren of “Heads Gonna Roll” and “Wasted Youth” — both from her solid recent album “On the Line,” which should be all over the radio if radio was a thing any more.

The played a half dozen songs from the new one — each one a highlight in a way, from the initial single “Red Bull & Hennessy” to the distinctive L.A. scene setting of “Hollywood Lawn” and the delicious “Do Si Do,” produced on the album by Beck.

But she performed almost just as many songs from her previous album from five years ago, The Voyager, with its standouts “She’s Not Me,” “Slippery Slopes” and its single “Just One of the Guys.” That all put us up to date with where Lewis is at this decade, but left little time for earlier work. There was just one from “Acid Tongue,” the enticing “See Fernando,” which she once sung on the legendary D.C. children’s show Pancake Mountain.

And there were just a couple from Rilo Kiley — “With Arms Outstretched” to end the main set, grandly, and two in the encore, “Silver Lining” and “I Never.”

But because the Watson Twins were once again opening her tour, there were a handful from the album they recorded together Rabbit Fur Coat including two with the Twins themselves, who came out in a costume change in the encore for “Melt Your Heart” and “Rise Up with Fists!!” followed by a nice a cappella Shirelles cover.

With a stage set edged in pink and blue, the aforementioned costuming, and a barrage of balloons late in the show, it was a singularly satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable show from a woman who should be much better known in the wider world (although then we’d have to see her in an arena instead of the relative coziness of the cavernous Anthem).

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The setlist for Jenny Lewis at the Anthem Thursday was:

  • “Heads Gonna Roll”
  • “Wasted Youth”
  • “The Big Guns”
  • “Head Underwater”
  • “Slippery Slopes”
  • “Happy”
  • “The Voyager”
  • “Do Si Do”
  • “She’s Not Me”
  • “Hollywood Lawn”
  • “Red Bull & Hennessy”
  • “Just One of the Guys”
  • “Little White Dove”
  • “Born Secular”
  • “See Fernando”
  • “With Arms Outstretched”
  • “Silver Lining”
  • “Melt Your Heart”
  • “Rise Up With Fists!!!”
  • “I Met Him on a Sunday”
  • “I Never”
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