On Tuesday night, clad in a green shirt and gleefully cheering on the Celtics (who I was indoctrinated to support during my childhood in Connecticut) as they humiliated the Lakers, I received a call from a fellow New Englander, my friend Verlaine. She had an extra ticket for Wednesday night’s Rilo Kiley concert, and invited me along. In the past five days I’d endure fourteen hours of driving, a wedding, innumerable hours of other activities, a long afternoon of field work in torrid Northridge, and I was expecting I’d be sleepless until at least 2 a.m. from the nervous energy that I was absorbing from the Boston Garden fans. Exhausted as I was, though, I realized there was simply no way I could say no.
The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles is a beautiful venue. It’s an outdoor amphitheatre nestled into the hills in Griffith Park, literally within walking distance of Tangier, another favorite spot of mine. The setting reminds me a lot of the Hollywood Bowl, although the Greek’s seating capacity of 5700 is about one-third of the former’s size and correspondingly much more intimate. And in contrast to the hemispherical shell of the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatre’s stage is shaped like a Athenian temple; a three walled building with a fourth wall in the shape of a golden rectangle and a triangular roof. The seating slopes up onto a steep east-facing hillside (ideal for summer shows) and is lit by overhead lights perched on towers framed by evergreen trees.
Aided by a Newcastle but plagued by a leaky pen, I started taking notes on the surprising number of skeevy girls in attendance. A huge proportion of the audience were redheads, conjuring fears of Cartman’s ginger revolution starting right there in the Greek Theatre, led by the girl scout daywalker Jenny Lewis herself.
The show was opened by Benji Hughes, an aging rocker from Charlotte. For a while, Verlaine thought we were watching Devandra Banhart, but we agreed that had better things to do on a Wednesday night (namely, Natalie Portman) than play to an amphitheatre that was still mostly empty. Benji, with his long gray hair and sunglasses, and his band sort of reminded me of a group of hippies who had sharpened their playing skills and cleaned up just enough to gain employment as a Vegas lounge act (even though that’s not a very accurate characterization of their music).
Benji Hughes – “So Well”
Benji was followed by Lavender Diamond, a band local to LA but that would have seemed more suited to Seattle or maybe Minneapolis. As singer Becky Stark took the stage, a potentially nearsighted fan cried out “I love you,” possibly mistaking her for Jenny Lewis. Verlaine described her as sounding like “Mariel Hemingway’s character in Manhattan” and while I found Becky’s spacey stoned ramblings strangely endearing, I had to agree that Lavender Diamond wasn’t ready for a stage as large as the Greek’s.
Lavender Diamond – “Open Your Heart”
I’ve wanted to see Jenny Lewis perform live ever since I first heard the few bars of “It’s a Hit” from More Adventurous. There’s something captivating about her voice, incredibly seductive. She’s not particularly rough on the eyes, either. While we waited for them to set up the stage, I watched the moon, yellow and bloated, rise between a pair of trees. Verlaine had the misfortune to encounter a boyfriend from her freshman year of college. I think I saw the girl who played Jason Street’s babymomma on Friday Night Lights, though it might have been just another random redhead amongst the decidedly ginger crowd.
My exhaustion, aided by a pair of prescription pills and a few servings of brown ale, finally caught up with me during Rilo Kiley’s set. They played a number of songs from their new album, Under the Blacklight, and quite a bit of familiar older material as well. Although she was clad in an unflattering outfit, Jenny’s star power was on full display and her vocals didn’t disappoint. An occasional flash from a strobe light on the stage made it feel a bit like a fireworks show, and this was reinforced later on when they unveiled a dozen huge balloons that burst into silvery confetti after they’d been batted around by the pit crowd for a while. After closing the show with a heart-stopping version of “I Never,” Jenny sprawled out on the stage amidst the glitter, probably more exhausted than myself. The wait for the encore was long enough that a few souls slipped out the side exits, but most folks were still in attendance for the eagerly awaited performance of “Portions for Foxes” that transitioned into “Spectacular Views,” a fitting end to a show in a venue as lovely as the Greek Theatre.
Rilo Kiley – “Close Call”
Rilo Kiley – “Portions for Foxes”
Complete (well, almost complete) setlist:
1. Close Call
2. The Moneymaker
4. Capturing Moods
5. Breakin’ Up
6. Does He Love You?
7. Not Sure
8. The Absence of God
9. With Arms Outstretched
10. Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight
11. It’s a Hit
12. Better Son/Daughter
13. Not Sure (Blake introduced it as “Let’s Do Some Shrooms”)
14. I Never
1. Pictures of Success
2. Portions for Foxes > Spectacular Views