with The Belle Brigade
Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre, Orlando, FL July 11, 2014
"I love Orlando. I have ever since I was a little kid," the dreamy ginger haired Jenny Lewis said to the sold out audience, forever endearing herself to us all forever. And this after previously name checking our often-criticized tourist town in "The Charging Sky" off of 2006's Rabbit Fur Coat. We'd have a beer with you on our Orlando streets anyday, Jenny.
How can you not adore the child actress- turned musician? She's gorgeous, and she writes naked songs that toe the lines between folk, pop, and country while still retaining cool indie cred. She's been in cool bands like Rilo Kiley and The Postal Service. Beck produced the kick off single off of her upcoming album The Voyager, the rest of the album of which is produced by Ryan Adams. And she once got tattooed by a topless Angelina Jolie... ok, that last one may have been a scene in the movie Foxfire, but it still counts because it's something that makes her infinitely cooler in my book!
Before we dig deeper into the pool of redhead cool, let's talk about The Belle Brigade. A brother/sister duo, Barbara and Ethan Gruska -- for real brother and sister, not White Stripes-ian brother/sister -- make up the core of this group. They share vocals and their voices compliment one another like Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, but it's Barbara who's the real showstopper here. Not only is her voice knock-down stunning, but she's also the drummer. That never ceases to impress my very uncoordinated brain! Their set is one of those opening act WOW's! that catch you off guard and send you running to the merch table to snatch up the cd, if only to satisfy your need to hear the closing song "When Everything Was What It Was" a few more billion times!
Fun fact, no wonder this pair are musically gifted, they're grandfather is composer John Williams. As in motherf-ing Star Wars , John Williams!
With everyone still bustling about, darting in and out of their seats as they make the mad dashes to and from the ever lengthening bathroom and bar lines -- for, in fact, Jenny Lewis was NOT the headlining attraction for the evening, except for a select few (like myself), the marquee advertised Ray Lamontagne -- Jenny Lewis and her band crept out onto the stage. Despite some sound maladies (one incredibly overloud lead guitar, in particular), the set that was brought forth stunned the unexpected crowd much in the way The Belle Brigade had caught me off guard, and then some.
As yet unreleased songs off of her soon to hit the streets album were spread out through a nearly hour long set that included some Rilo Kiley songs, much to my delight. Lewis' vocals were, as always, spot on to die for -- sounding like a 21st Century Patsy Cline, though her white with rainbow design suit was a tad too timid for her usual ballsy style. Also timid was the lighting crew, if there was one. For the entirety of her performance the lights stayed frozen in place, never following the flirty frontwoman even when she climbed atop boxes or edged out closer to the audience. She was left in the dark unless she stayed in her designated places. Between the sound and lighting issues it felt as though the band missed their soundcheck, which could very well have been the case.
Still, there were some candlelight moments in which none of the exterior distractions mattered. When she sang the haunting "Acid Tongue," accompanied by her band half mooned directly behind her singing backing vocals, the auditorium was so silent you could hear a pin not just drop, but breathe. It was one of those true concert moments that are, let's face it, the reason we all feel compelled to go see these musicians play live in the first place. To experience an out of body, or at least out of head, experience that can only be brought about my melody, words, and voice.
She got us there. And no strange white pant suit, or ear piercing guitar feedback could diminish that.