Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins


Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, "Rise Up With Fists"

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, "The Charging Sky"

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, "Rabbit Fur Coat"

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, "It Wasn't Me"

The first night of my run of shows started with a bang, as Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins put on an amazing show last night in Philadelphia. It was held in the sanctuary of the First Unitarian Church, as opposed to the basement where most shows are held. This brought an added dimension of grandeur and solemnity, especially when the lights went down and only the stage/altar was lit. Quite impressive, an amazing venue for the right type of show.

For those that don't know, Jenny Lewis is the beautiful lead singer of Rilo Kiley, one of the great bands to come out of the Omaha, Nebraska-based Saddle Creek label. This night, however, was a chance to see her side project with Louisville, Kentucky's Watson Twins; their collaborative album was released a few months ago on Team Love Records. It's a wonderful album, for real, something that has taken me numerous listens to fully appreciate. In fact, the show last night really brought that fact home, as the band sounded great live, with their songs about religion and love and death finding a nice home in the church.

The music is an exploration of one the main influences on Lewis and Rilo Kiley, country and western music. The band features a lap guitar player, two backup vocalists, a drummer, a organist, a bass and guitar. The sound is a mixture of rock, country and gospel, a really twangy sound even on the more rocking tracks. It never came across as parody or ironic; quite the opposite, as I had no doubt that this was a project that meant a lot to Jenny, a chance for her to delve deeper into country music without the expectations of Rilo Kiley.

My only issue was the religious references, as they seemed to come out of nowhere at times, giving a sense of playing a part, writing lyrics that were reminiscent of "country music." It's not that I have some adverse reaction to religious references, but rather that I wish that she would explore the ideas further, instead of just throwing it out there for one or two songs. I guess it also goes against my image of Jenny Lewis as a flatchested, city girl version of Dolly Parton or one of the great female country music artists. Lewis has this been-there, done-that attitude with a more East Coast sense of fashion and coolness, and that's where I see her fitting in. Maybe I'm wrong; I'd love to hear her older fans thoughts on all of this.

The band played for about an hour, playing most of the tracks from the new album. This included an opener where the band came out first and the ladies made a dramatic intro, coming on stage singing. There was also the first encore, "It Wasn't Me," where Jenny sang alone with her acoustic guitar, walking up one aisle of the church to the delight of the amateur photogs in the audience. Can I just add that she is absolutely beautiful and magnetic and a superstar waiting for a bigger audience? Her voice is magnificent, completely spellbinding, able to command an entire room without a mic. I can't say much more, other than go buy the album and catch this show if you can.

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