Show Review: Jenny Lewis with Nik Freitas at Swedish American Hall, 6/16/12

by Dakin Hardwick on June 20, 2012

It’s been a few years since Jenny Lewis last graced our presence. In the two years since the release of I’m Having Fun Now, her Rilo Kiley bandmate Blake Sennett declared the band broken up, and her first ever acoustic tour (which would have included her first appearance at Neil Young’s annual Bridge School Benefit) ended up getting derailed due to a family emergency. When she finally returned to San Francisco, so booked the incredibly intimate and historic Swedish American Hall, and it sold out in moments. Since this show was initially announced in late Summer of 2011, people have been waiting almost a year for this show. This show was a big deal.

We were treated to a short warm up set by former Bay Area resident Nik Freitas. He played an all too brief set of warm solo acoustic songs. Freitas has been putting out excellent, bright records for well over a decade now, yet continues to be remain under the radar. Despite the very crowded room, there were only a handful of persons in the room familiar with his work. His set focused primarily on tracks off last year’s Saturday Night Underwater, stripped down and stunning. His stage presence is a little bit awkward… He seemed to prefer to avoid bantering with the crowd, although he made sure to recommend a local taqueria, which is always good. Towards the end of the set, there were a few clap along moments that showed that the audience had finally warmed up to him, but by then, he was done with his set.

Jenny Lewis came out with just an acoustic guitar, and sang a stripped down version on “Silver Lining,” off Rilo Kiley’s swan song Under The Blacklight. Her voice, one of the most unique voices in rock, was in pitch perfect condition. She then walked into the middle of the room with her acoustic guitar and began singing, sans amplification, “Run Devil Run,” while her band casually took the stage. Although, her band never actually started playing. Instead, The Watson Twins walked in from the back of the room, completing the song in the center of the room. Lewis and The Twins returned to the stage, with Nik Freitas jumping on drums, Farmer Dave Scherr on slide guitar and Jonathan Rice on guitar and vocals. This began a seven song stretch, entirely made up of tracks from Rabbit Fur Coat. All performed acoustically, and they sounded stunning.

Next we were treated to a new song called “Just One Of The Guys.” This featured Lewis on the electric piano, and it was a fun little barnstormer of a country rock ditty. The next unrecorded song was “You Can’t Out Run ‘Em.” Both of these songs were very high energy, and the band was definitely having fun playing them. I have no idea when these songs will be officially released, but all signs point to the next Jenny Lewis solo record will be another high quality affair. She ended the second new song by telling a sweet story about her father dealing with cancer treatments, and enjoying a evening getting high off his medicinal pot together. It was a tender moment, but also a rare glimpse into the personal life of Lewis, who is usually quite reserved. She mentioned her father several times throughout the show, whom seemed to be on her mind a lot, probably due to the Father’s Day holiday happening the next day.

After playing the only song all night off I’m Having Fun Now, “Big Wave,” Jenny and Jonathan covered the Rod Stewart classic “I Don’t Want To Talk About,” with just Lewis on vocals and Rice on vocals and guitar. It’s strange watching these two perform together, because everyone knows that they have been romantically involved for many years, however, they don’t seem to have much physical chemistry on stage. They do, however, sound great together, and this delicate ballad was truly stunning.

The second half of the set was devoted primarily to material off Acid Tongue, we were treated to plenty of rarities. They performed a song called “No Leaving Tonight,” a song from 2006 that was forgotten about until they found it on YouTube. We got another new song called “Head Underwater,” which despite the dark lyrics about pending mortality, was one of the few songs in the set that could be described as danceable. We got a stripped down version of the Rilo Kiley classic “Portions For Foxes,” done with just Rice, Lewis, and The Watson Twins. (Sadly, a third Rilo Kiley song, “Give A Little Love,” was ejected from the setlist) The main set closed messy version of the Traveling Wilburys’ “Handle With Care.” I say messy because it really felt like they band didn’t really get a chance to rehearse it. Frietas played the Roy Orbison part and Rice did Tom Petty, and both of them forget many of the lyrics, but they all took it in stride, and seemed to be having the time of their lives up there.

They encored with Lewis and The Watson Twins covering Laura Nyro’s girl group inspired “I Met Him On A Sunday” all around a single omnidirectional mike. The rest of the band popped out around the same mike for a rousing rendition of “Acid Tongue.” The amp’d up audience begged for more, but it just didn’t happen. They slipped out into the summer night. All we can hope is that Lewis doesn’t wait another two years to pay us a visit again.

Set List:

Silver Lining

Run Devil Run

Big Guns

Rise Up With Fists!!

Charging Sky

You Are What You Love

Melt Your Heart

Happy

Just One Of The Guys

You Can’t Out Run ‘Em

Big Wave

I Don’t Want To Talk About It

Carpetbaggers

No Leaving Tonight

The Next Messiah

Bad Man’s World

Head Underwater

Portions For Foxes

Handle With Care

Met Him On A Sunday

Acid Tongue

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