It’s no surprise LA’s own indie rock queen Jenny Lewis had tricks up her sleeve Saturday night at the Hollywood Palladium. It was the first headline hometown gig from the singer in more than three years.
The last time Lewis played a proper LA gig, she was touring the 10th anniversary of her landmark debut solo record Rabbit Fur Coat. Lewis released On the Line in March to critical praise and much fanfare from her longtime fans. It’s no surprise she sold out the Palladium, the largest LA venue Lewis has headlined since playing the Greek Theatre in 2008 as part of Rilo Kiley.
Interestingly enough, Lewis’ touring band features a relic from her past. Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel is behind the kit, with the rest of her band also new to this album cycle. She’s joined by seven bandmates in all, including a two-piece strings section that brings even more depth to the tunes.
She wasted no time getting into the On the Line tunes, sitting behind the piano in the same sparkly dress from much of the press photos related to the record. The memorable piano opening to “Heads Gonna Roll” sent the crowd into instant applause. The song is truly cinematic, and it also had me feeling like I was in the ’70s. I smiled at what Lewis told me in an interview was a Floyd Mayweather Jr. reference: “I’m gonna keep on dancing ’til I hear that ringing bell.”
The more upbeat “Wasted Youth” followed. The part where she sings, “Mercury hasn’t been in retrograde very long,” and the song stops for the “oh no” pops even better live than on the album. Lewis spent the next several songs visiting her past, first on “The Big Guns” from Rabbit Fur Coat. She followed with a longtime favorite of mine, “Head Underwater” from The Voyager. Slow-burner “Happy” from Rabbit Fur Coat came next, then a reggae version of “The Voyager”, which caught the crowd by surprise but had them dancing.
“She’s Not Me” was another crowd favorite from The Voyager, with the crowd singing along to the whole thing. A glowing old-school phone had been sitting out for the whole show, and finally rang for the title track from On the Line. What followed was a special treat for the LA crowd. The phone rang again, and this time Lewis picked it up and it was Jackson Browne on the other end. At the end of their conversation, Browne joined Lewis on stage.
The two dueted on Browne’s classic “These Days”, which gave me goosebumps hearing the two harmonize together. Then Browne told a story about recording an album in Haiti, inviting Lewis to come join him. After a voodoo ceremony, Lewis came to the studio with the bones of a song and then was gone the next day after they recorded it. They played the track “Under the Supermoon”, the first time it had been heard by a crowd before. It’s to come from a Jackson Browne album hopefully out later this year. The song sort of frames around Trump being elected president and can be heard below:
Browne vacated the stage and Lewis jumped into “Little White Dove”, another standout from On the Line. Throughout the show, it felt like LA was celebrating one of their own. This album is strong enough to win a GRAMMY and the show at the Palladium felt like a victory lap for the singer, who will be touring relentlessly the rest of the year (including a stop at Ohana Fest in September).
Before “Born Secular”, Lewis recounted how in 1993 she went to a rave at the Palladium and fell asleep in the ladies’ restroom due to a combination of substances, which elicited laughter.
Lewis closed out her set with a Rilo Kiley song, the only one she would play. “With Arms Outstretched” was a fitting end, one of the best sing-along songs in their catalog. When she returned to the stage for the encore, she was in the outfit from the album cover. Three songs from On the Line kicked off the encore, including a favorite of mine “Party Clown” and lead single “Red Bull & Hennessy”. She closed the encore with two Acid Tongue songs, “See Fernando” and the title track. She was joined on stage for “Acid Tongue” by a bunch of friends, including Jackson Browne and King Tuff. She also invited a very drunk fan from the front of the crowd onto the stage, who sat and was serenaded by everyone.
You could see Lewis was slightly emotional at times at the response from the crowd. It’s been detailed in numerous features how difficult of a road it’s been to On the Line. Lewis lost her mother, who she reconnected with in her final months after they were estranged for decades. She ended a decade-plus long relationship with Jonathan Rice, her boyfriend and collaborator. Under those circumstances, it makes it that much more incredible On The Line is as phenomenal as it is. In fact, I reckon to say it’s the best work of Lewis’ career, something that will hopefully earn her some love when award season rolls around.
In other Jenny Lewis news, it was announced Monday she’s collaborated on a weed strain. This was only a matter of time. She’s collaborated with Glass House Farms on a handpicked strain “The Rabbit Hole”, the name of a last song on her record. It’s a Sour Diesel strain you can find in five-packs of pre-rolled joints. You can find them at Sweet Flower Melrose, Sweet Flower Studio City, The Pottery, The Cannary, The Beach and Bud & Bloom.
Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Tim Aarons