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 nightâ€™s Rilo Kiley concert, and invited me along. In the past five days Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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. Itâ€™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 formerâ€™s size and correspondingly much more intimate. And in contrast to the hemispherical shell of the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theatreâ€™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 Cartmanâ€™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 thatâ€™s not a very accurate characterization of their music).
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 â€œI love you,â€ possibly mistaking her for Jenny Lewis. Verlaine described her as sounding like â€œMariel Hemingwayâ€™s character in Manhattanâ€ and while I found Beckyâ€™s spacey stoned ramblings strangely endearing, I had to agree that Lavender Diamond wasnâ€™t ready for a stage as large as the Greekâ€™s.
Iâ€™ve wanted to see Jenny Lewis perform live ever since I first heard the few bars of â€œItâ€™s a Hitâ€ from More Adventurous.Thereâ€™s something captivating about her voice, incredibly seductive.Sheâ€™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 Streetâ€™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 Kileyâ€™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, Jennyâ€™s star power was on full display and her vocals didnâ€™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 theyâ€™d been batted around by the pit crowd for a while.After closing the show with a heart-stopping version of â€œI Never,â€ 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 â€œPortions for Foxesâ€ that transitioned into â€œSpectacular Views,â€ a fitting end to a show in a venue as lovely as the Greek Theatre.
Complete (well, almost complete) setlist:
1. Close Call
2. The Moneymaker
4. Capturing Moods
5. Breakinâ€™ 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. Itâ€™s a Hit
12. Better Son/Daughter
13. Not Sure (Blake introduced it as â€œLetâ€™s Do Some Shroomsâ€)
14. I Never
1. Pictures of Success
2. Portions for Foxes > Spectacular Views