Did I mention I saw The Flaming Lips Live about 2 weeks ago?
That sentence pretty much sums up my experience seeing Rilo Kiley live for the very first time. Granted, pre-2007 Rilo Kiley is one of my favorite bands, oh, ever, and they were really very talented live, but there was just something missing. Confetti, giant balloons, crazy spectacles, enormous hands; those sorts of things. It wasn't like I was expecting all of these things, but after seeing The Flaming Lips just 10 days earlier, Rilo Kiley just seemed boring!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The evening started out with a very talented new band called Art in Manila. The band sounds like they very well could be the next Rilo Kiley, albeit a toned-down, less country version of Rilo Kiley. They are made up of a bunch of members from other indie rock bands that you may or may not have heard of (The Good Life, Azure Ray, etc.). They are fronted by former-Azure Ray member and all-around cutie patootie, Orenda Fink. Their music was very polished though, at times, very unaffecting. Still, they got me interested, and I fully intend on checking out their music in the near future.
After Art in Manila, I got kind of tired of being the tall douche who blocks everybody's view. Plus, about 16 or 17 thirteen year old girls rushed up to where I was standing, and I suddenly found my somewhat spacious area a little more cozy than I would have liked. I moved to the back of the venue.
The next band, Grand Ole Party, had a very cool sound. Made up of 3 members, the lead singer is also the drummer, and her vocals absolutely blew me away. Her voice sounds surprisingly like Aretha Franklin's. Likewise, the band's music was very soulful and funky with hints of blues thrown in occasionally. They had a very cool sound. Unfortunately, while the music the band produced was pretty cool, their performance was lacking. The guitarist and bassist had their feel planted the whole show, occasionally moving their upper body, but never really reacting to the music in a way that would seem appropriate. A lot of the bands' songs ended up bleeding into one another too, and it all started sounding a bit repetitive after a while. That being said, they still blew me away and I think they could have a bright future ahead of them. (Their debut album was produced by Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley.)
But of course, I didn't drive 45 minutes to see Art in Manila and Grand Ole Party. I did it to see Rilo Kiley, a band with whom I was basically in love with until a little album called Under the Blacklight came out. Even though me and the band aren't really speaking anymore, I wanted to go and see them live. I've been wanting to for a while. And to be honest, they really didn't disappoint all that much.
The band played a total of 20 songs, 8 of which were from their latest album. To my surprise, a lot of the audience seemed to be fans of their recent stuff as well. I know I'm not the only long-standing Rilo Kiley fan to feel a little disappointed in their new stuff, so this leads me to believe that a lot of the people who came to see them are new fans of them. Good for them, right?
Anyways, Rilo Kiley is absolutely perfect live. Jenny Lewis' vocals are just as gorgeous as always when they need to be, and obnoxious when she wants it to be. I expected nothing less, and was not disappointed at all. Almost 3 years ago, I had the opportunity to see Blake Sennett and The Elected play live, so I already knew he would be fun to watch live. Boy, he sure does love playing that guitar of his!
I was also glad to see that Orenda Fink and Kristen Gundred (of Art in Manila and Grand Ole Party, respectively) were incorporated into Rilo Kiley's show. Orenda did backup vocals, guitars, synthesizers, and even played trumpet on "It's a Hit." Kristen was mainly restricted to backup vocals and congas, but it was still nice to see. It was also nice to see Blake sing "Ripchord" (ukulele and all) and finally get that song the attention it deserves. The band was kind enough to play 6 songs from The Execution of All Things and 5 from More Adventurous, though I was pretty disappointed to hear that the only song they played from Take Offs and Landings was "Wires and Waves" (you had Orenda on the trumpet, you should have played "Don't Deconstruct"...AHH!!).
But of course this wouldn't be much of a review if I didn't have anything negative to say about the band, and the night was not without it's share of questionable decisions. For example, why on earth would you play "15?" Or better yet, why would you sing it all sexy-like and try to get the crowd all into it by waving their hands (it is about statutory rape, right)? It just doesn't seem like the tried-and-true crowd pleaser that Jenny wanted it to be.
Another thing I noticed was that the band seemed to be noticeably more into their older stuff than the songs off of Under the Blacklight (with the exception of "Breakin' Up" which they all seemed pretty excited about). When they played songs like "Moneymaker," "Silver Lining," and "Dreamworld" they seemed distant, but when playing songs like "It's a Hit" or "Paint's Peeling," they were completely and undeniably into it. I wonder if I was the only one who noticed this. Also, did anyone else think Jenny looked like a frumpy home school girl in 80s workout attire? Anyone?
The band even took turns playing Jenny and Blake's side-projects' songs. They first played "Rise Up with Fists" from Jenny's solo debut, which was followed shortly by "Greetings in Braille" from The Elected's first album Me First. I'm a huge Elected fan though, and they totally butchered this song, in my opinion (seriously, my homemade cover of it was better...and it sucked).
Overall, though, Rilo Kiley was really great live and I'm glad I finally got the chance to see them! If you've ever been a fan of Rilo Kiley and you've never had the opportunity to check them out live, then I highly recommend you do so. Just be sure that you don't see The Flaming Lips 10 days earlier, because that will totally ruin your experience! Seriously, at one point in the show the drummer popped a giant, confetti-filled balloon and I thought "That's it?" That's how spoiled I am!