Jenny Lewis knows how to make a hometown crowd feel their worth. At the end of a towering set that spanned almost two hours this past Saturday night, she did the rare thing that any artist could do at any moment — played that one special deep cut that brings hardcore fans to tears, and draws new ones even further into the fold. Lewis finished out an already spectacular set with “Acid Tongue,” and I watched a couple of friends weep, hearing the standout title track from Lewis’ album of the same name for the first time live.
That closer was just one of a number of special flourishes that Lewis packed into the night, with a setlist that drew from all of her eras, but centered most fully on her last two albums, The Voyager, and this year’s stunning, hard-not-to-call-her-best-work-ever, On The Line. And, as polished as these songs sound on record, seeing her perform them live adds a whole new depth to their sound; this new record is not just studio magic, but sounds as bright and pristine on the stage as it does on tape.
Opening up the show with “Heads Gonna Roll,” the slow-rolling, melancholy opener of her latest record, Lewis showed up onstage in the same sparkling, drop-dead cocktail dress she wore in press photos, immediately elevating the entire performance to another level. It’s just that some dresses hold more power than just aesthetic, and the sheer elegance of the cut and glittering fabric helped contribute to the overall force of the show.
Another highlight of the set was a couple additions of songs Lewis did with The Watson Twins — “The Big Guns” and “Happy” appeared within the first few songs, and “Born Secular” came just before the end of the initial set — pleasing fans of Rabbit Fur Coat, which it might be noted still resonates and sounds completely current even though it came out thirteen years ago.
I missed seeing Jenny when she toured behind The Voyager, so getting the chance to see that record’s opener, “Head Underwater,” the too-close-for-comfort “She’s Not Me,” the album’s title track, reimagined in reggae style, and the bittersweet “Just One Of The Guys” was my own personal high point in the night — or so I thought.
After another slew of heavy-hitting tracks from On The Line — “Wasted Youth,” which contains the best use of the word “poppy” in the songwriting canon, “Do Si Do,” “Hollywood Lawn,” and the title track, Lewis surprised the audience by piping in a literal phone call, from none other than Jackson Browne. Another hometown hero, Browne was, of course, calling from inside the Palladium, and quickly got up on stage to run through a duet of “These Days” that crushed any other version, and carried every heart in the place to the brink of breakdown.
From there, the pair shared the news that a Lewis / Browne collab album is coming out this fall, and even performed one of their new joint songs, “Under A Supermoon,” which was reportedly recorded in Cuba with a host of other guests, supergroup style. Getting word of another new Jenny Lewis album while at a Jenny Lewis concert is definitely the best way to experience the news, and that excitement carried through the rest of the show, which surprisingly, was still far from over. A Rilo Kiley favorite, “With Arms Outstretched,” concluded the formal setlist, but what followed was a five-song encore that almost felt like a second set in itself.
Beginning with the heartbreaking “Dogwood,” an ode to the final stages of a relationship from On The Line, the encore set then segued into “Party Clown” and “Red Bull & Hennessy,” the arguable bangers from this latest release. “See Fernando” was the tip-off that Lewis might be closing the set out with the cult favorite that she did, as it’s also off Acid Tongue, but it’s also worth noting the detail that went into that final performance. Bringing Jackson Browne back out, and assembling a choir that included the likes of King Tuff, Jenny and a full slate of contributing voices belted “Acid Tongue” out into the crowd. And maybe it didn’t quite fix the collective hole in us, but it came pretty close.