Jenny Lewis has been one of the best storytellers in music, from her time with Rilo Kiley to her solo career. Her first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, was an instant classic. It was folky with a soul feeling mostly thanks to the vocal assist from the Watson Twins. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Rabbit Fur Coat, and Lewis took it on the road, playing it cover-to-cover to celebrate. One of the stops was the Beacon Theatre in New York City for two nights. We were able to catch the first of the two nights, and it was nothing short of magical.
The opener for the night was the extremely fitting M. Ward. Ward played a great set of new and old tracks, starting his set solo before his band joined him. The show occurred on the anniversary of “the day the music died”, and Ward paid tribute with a blistering version of “Rave On”, made famous by Buddy Holly. He played some tracks from his upcoming record, More Rain, which have us even more excited about that release.
After a break between sets, the lights went out and un-mic’d, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins came on stage holding candles singing “Run Devil Run” to a thunderous applause. The next round of thunderous applause happened during “The Big Guns” when Lewis threw up a peace sign during the line “Let’s pretend everybody here wants peace!”. Little things like that make Lewis’ stage presence among the best out there today. Her slight dance moves and costume changes and everything are so well put together, it makes the whole thing an immersive experience. When she and the Twins played “Rise Up With Fists!!”, it was just sublime, it’s one of the best tracks of the last decade, and to see if performed like that.
About halfway through “Happy”, M. Ward walked out and joined the band for the song. M. Ward came in and out throughout the set, playing “You Are What You Love”, which had an extended outro, for which Lewis left the stage. At one point, it was Ward and Lewis’ guitarist Megan McCormick dueling solos, and my goodness, that rocked! Lewis came back on stage in a different outfit and performed the title track “Rabbit Fur Coat” solo, which was interrupted at one point for some more thunderous applause, which you could see Lewis being completely appreciative for the love being directed her way. The next song on the record is a cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care”. The album version features Ben Gibbard, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst. Live, only M. Ward joined Lewis on stage, but it was still fantastic. After “Born Secular”, there was an amazing jam where the band members left the stage one by one. The first set ended with the reprise of “Happy”, this time Lewis was joined only by the Watson Twins, totally unplugged. The audience was silent, until of course, thunderous applause filled the theatre at the conclusion of the album.
One great touch, and sign that Lewis really knows how to craft a top quality live experience, was when finding your seats, the ushers handed out playbills, which listed the set times and an intermission. There truly was an intermission, and after it, Lewis picked up with some new and old songs from her catalog, starting off with “Head Under Water” from 2015’s The Voyager. She finally addressed the crowd after that, thanking them for the love, saying she could finally get out of that character from the first set. She played tracks from 2008’s Acid Tongue plus new tunes, “See Fernando” and “Pretty Bird”, from an album she is currently working on. She also pulled out “I Never” from Rilo Kiley’s 2004 More Adventurous, which was a real treat. The show came to close with “She’s Not Me” from The Voyager, which was a fun track to close a really fun night with.
Seeing the Rabbit Fur Coat 10th anniversary tour was a really, really fun time. It was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve been to in a long time. Jenny Lewis is truly one of the finest storytellers in indie rock and is one of rock’s most engaging front-people. Lewis crafts an incredible live experience and she really did handle Rabbit Fur Coat with care. The result was a fun night full of colorful lyrics and stage gear and thunderous applause.
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