Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins @ Vic Theatre (10/4/06)

Every artist reaches a point of transition, but who knew that for Jenny Lewis it would take singing twins and some acoustic guitars to make that happen? The lead singer of Rilo Kiley returned to Chicago in support of her solo debut Rabbit Fur Coat, showing off how much she’s grown in the seven months since her last performance at Park West.

In March, Lewis was the unproven “solo artist,” taking the stage with her backing band and decked out in an outfit taken straight from Loretta Lynn’s closet. As much as the spotlight was on Lewis, it was really about the collection of songs that shed new light onto a performer known mostly for her sweet pop voice, girl-next-door good looks and acting career as a young girl in the 80s. But Lewis succeeded that night by proving to many in the audience that she was more of a presence with substance than just a vessel for sound.

Those that nearly filled the Vic Theatre were treated to a show that not only raised the bar a bit from Lewis’ previous visit but also showcased new songs that were teasingly flavored with mischief…and Vegas, honky-tonk fun?

Gone was the Loretta Lynn look that completely covered Lewis at Park West. Instead, Lewis appeared from the shadows in a sleek, black dress, which had many in the audience cheering. It was as if Lewis suddenly became the Audrey Hepburn of rock ‘n’ roll. As her voice carried throughout the theatre, it wasn’t the sensuality that Lewis was displaying that jumped out the most—it was the confidence. “The Big Guns” and “The Charging Sky” stomped with a new found purpose to the road worn songs.

Halfway through the show, Lewis and the Watson twins (Chandra and Leigh) left the stage while the band played on during the standard “Let’s introduce the band” jam. If the elegant black dresses worn by Lewis and the twins weren’t enough, then the Vegas-styled glimmering outfits the ladies re-appeared in certainly shook the roof of the Vic. Lewis now entered her Tina Turner phase. With the crowd roaring, Lewis became a whole other performer as she strutted out some dance moves with the Watson twins and sang with a flirtatious wink in her eye.

New songs, “Fernando,” “Jack Killed Mom,” “Acid Tone” and “Carpetbagger” (possible working titles), gave a glimpse of what might be in the works for Lewis’ follow-up album. The songs were lively in their catchiness, soulful, and took an entirely different road from the country-esque path that Rabbit Fur Coat cruised. The band held an extra sense of excitement as they really let loose with songs still finding their footing on stage. The latest material was enough to inject much-needed life to a show that could have easily become a mirror image of Lewis’ show at Park West in March.

As the encore opened, Lewis stood alone with an acoustic guitar strapped across her shoulder. The angelic songwriter under the white light stepped to the microphone and almost whispered the opening lines to the title track of Rabbit Fur Coat. Verse after verse, the crowd stood in a hush as they hung on every word Lewis sang, as if listening for clues to solve some mystery.

By the time Lewis and company hit the final note to the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care,” the house lights came up and fans slowly accepted the disappointment that the show had reached its end. It was another night in the books for Lewis, but the look on her face as she departed the stage was enough to suggest that it’s just the beginning for Lewis…it’s just the beginning.

All Photos By: Chris Castaneda

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Extra! Extra!

The October issue of Chicago Innerview is now available online. I have contributed a special feature piece for the issue, which focuses on entertainment lawyer Jay B. Ross and the issue of digital royalties.

This feature piece is ONLY available in the print version of the magazine. I will scan the article soon and make it available here on Getting In Tune for those who live outside of Chicago.