Jenny Lewis, a prominent figure in indie rock for almost 25 years, recently performed an electrifying show in New York City. As the lead singer and guitarist of Rilo Kiley, she quickly gained fame after their debut EP in 1999 and has since explored various genres while crafting songs about love and heartbreak.
After Rilo Kiley disbanded in 2013, Lewis stayed busy, releasing solo albums and collaborating with artists like Johnathan Rice, The Watson Twins, and her supergroup Nice as Fuck. In 2021, she joined Harry Styles on tour, playing arena shows, but now she’s back as a solo artist, promoting her latest album “Joy’All.” Her high-energy performance at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in New York showcased tracks from this album along with a fresh perspective on her older material.
Lewis and her band opened the set with a dreamy rendition of her 2014 single “Just One of the Guys,” introducing her Western-clad bandmates: drummer Meg Coleman, bassist Ryan Madora, keyboard player and vocalist Jess Nolan, and guitar and pedal steel player Nicole Lawrence. The group’s smooth and lush sound, reminiscent of a vintage record player, added a country touch to favorites like “She’s Not Me” and “Red Bull & Hennessy,” with Nolan and Lawrence delivering tasteful solos. Coleman’s versatility on the drums, including playing without sticks on the gentle “Joy’All” single “Puppy and a Truck,” added delightful surprises.
Throughout the show, Lewis exuded happiness, relishing the opportunity to share her new musical direction with her fans. Her stage presence had evolved from the edgy intensity of her early Rilo Kiley performances, as she danced and sang in a biker-vibe jumpsuit on an elevated platform. With a smile on her face, Lewis embraced her lyrics, even those with darker themes, such as “He took me to a graveyard / I thought he’d kill me there / And he kissed me on the corner / While the nuns of Harlem watched.”
Lewis’ vocals were a highlight of the night, displaying a growing sweetness and richness over the years. Her vibrato on the torchy “Acid Tongue” and her genuine grit on “The Next Messiah” demonstrated her vocal prowess. The new material seemed to rejuvenate her, as she effortlessly performed album tracks like “Apples and Oranges” and “Cherry Baby,” making them feel like long-time favorites.
In moments of pure joy, Lewis playfully quoted “There’s no crying in rock ‘n’ roll,” remixing the famous line from “A League of Their Own.” She expressed her gratitude for the fans’ connection to her songs and left everyone in high spirits. The encore featured a nostalgic Rilo Kiley hit, “With Arms Outstretched,” leading the crowd in a heartwarming singalong.
In the end, Jenny Lewis’ performance was an infectious display of talent, passion, and genuine connection with her audience. The concert left fans with beaming smiles, celebrating the music of an artist who has been a steady presence in the indie rock scene for years.