If Jenny Lewis were to be considered the voice of any certain slice of this generation, it would be those steeped in rock culture. Her set last night at The Ogden Theatre (her third Denver show this year) gave those in attendance the opportunity to experience her recently releasedThe Voyager
in its natural habitat: the drama and ecstasy of a local music scene.
"I was your silver lining, but now I'm gold," Lewis sang, opening the show with a number from her previous band, Rilo Kiley, "Silver Lining." For music nerds, it's the song with the lead guitar that blatantly rips off George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord." Yet for the twee dramatists in the crowd, it was the soundtrack for their gazes toward the ex-lovers who were surely there last night. Because if Jenny Lewis songs have any utility, it's in the nourishing sadness of holding on to lost love.
"I am still into you, dreams really do come true," she pined, standing atop a monitor in her white, Grand Ole Opry suit with the ombre-fade, rainbow-print up the legs, singing the song "Slippery Slopes." "And if you don't wreck it, I won't wreck it either, when I'm out on the road." The song is an ephemeral plea for monogamy in the face of a Dionysian music world of "mushrooms and coke." Though she can apparently handle the infidelity so long as the duplicitous sex "helps us to remember that we like each other the most."
It's not that Lewis' music can't be enjoyed by anyone. Her stage-set of a rising planet surrounded by cartoon stars, painted upon a bedsheet backdrop like the set of a 1960s Saturday morning special, was a playfully charming aesthetic that can be enjoyed almost universally in the age of Wes Anderson's preciousness. But this was autobiographical music, and if you haven't been "Jezebeled, back from Hell," as Lewis sang in her song "See Fernando," then you're left with no other position as an audience member then to mythologize this pop-pagan goddess into something distant and unattainable. And Jenny Lewis is anything but unattainable.
"When I look at myself, all I can see: I'm just another lady without a baby," Lewis sang on the song, "Just One Of The Guys." She moved with a playful sexuality, looking the part of a bedroom pinup with a self-contained demeanor, exhibiting her body on her own terms. Yet she's giving voice to the fears of becoming an old woman, the anxiety of vulnerable rejection, those moments of existential panic in the face of a wrinkling face. You can eroticize Lewis as a modern Barbarella who writes a great tune. And that's fine. But to do so is to miss out on the wisdom of someone who has survived the flirty games and unexpected betrayals that come with dating musicians.
The title track to Lewis's The Voyager was disappointingly absent from her show last night. Though studious fans were treated to Lewis staples like "Pretty Bird," "The Charging Sky," and "Acid Tongue," as well as Rilo Kiley classics like "The Moneymaker," and "A Better Son/Daughter," the latter of which left this writer in a state of glassy-eyed paralysis.
"Come with me late bloomer, I wanna see that fire burning, in you little child," Lewis crooned into the mic, telling a Catcher In The Rye-like tale in her song in her recent song "Late Bloomer."
"That song is pretty meta," Lewis confessed, saying a friend of hers described the song as like "a trash-can within a trash-can."
If Lewis's music were held to the standard of other country-pop icons of today, it would be considered bad advice to the average blossoming high school female. All of the promiscuity, drug use and self-loathing would either be corrupting or weirdly irrelevant to the average American teenager. Hers are songs for the riff-raff romantics who've abandoned security and societal respect in favor of a life of inspiration and have a few grievances to air for dreams that have come up a little short.
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