Show Review: Rilo Kiley at WWU

I fell in love with Rilo Kiley when I was 18 and heard “Pictures of Success” for the first time. In the catastrophic period between high school and college, Jenny Lewis’ lyrics about optimism in the face of overwhelming despair were a balm for my angsty, teenage soul. I followed them through two albums to 2005’s More Adventurous—one of my all-time favorite records—then to 2007’s Under the Blacklight, which was a big departure for the band that I eventually came to love. So when Rilo Kiley came to my school, I had to go. The concert was in the multipurpose room, which is to a good concert venue as a McDonald’s hamburger is to a Kobe beefsteak. It has all the personality of a bored bank teller, but at least the acoustics are decent.

Two bands opened for Rilo Kiley: Michael Runion and Whispertown 2000. Since I believe in supporting indie music, and think that when you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything at all (well, at least publicly), I’m not going to say anything about Michael Runion’s performance. What I will say is that he had a shirt that stated, in bold print, “Michael Runion Will Never Die.” Nice.

Whispertown 2000, I will comment on, because they were fantastic. They just exuded energy. There’s something really special about two women singing folksy tunes in close harmony over jangly guitars. Most of their songs were super-catchy, but the highlight of their set was when they brought Michael Runion’s band back out on stage for a huge jam, and the lead singer went totally ape-shit on the cowbell. It’s not often that an opening band I’ve never heard of will wow me, but Whispertown 2000 was great. I’m kicking myself for not buying their CD.

After a forty-five minute break (the sound and light crew fumbled their way through most of the night, which is pretty typical for a student-run venue), Rilo Kiley took the stage and the crowd went wild. Then they went “Uh…” Jenny Lewis sleepwalked through the first three songs, looking bored and angry. Oddly, these three songs were all from the new album, which is much more upbeat and danceable than their old stuff, but it seemed like Jenny wasn’t feeling the new material. But once she dropped the bass and grabbed the mic for “Does He Love you?” her inner diva came out and the show got good. Slouching across the stage, hanging on the ends of her words, smiling flirtatiously with the sound tech, Lewis was pure charisma. Rilo Kiley drew evenly from each of their albums for the live set, and after the last three songs, only dipped back into the new album for the upbeat “Breakin’ Up,” which gave Lewis lots of mugging, pouting and wailing opportunities.

They opened their encore with “Pictures of Success,” complete with screaming guitar noise and trumpet riff, and ended the show with “Portions for Foxes” and a dissolve into an instrumental jam/freak-out that got so frenetic I thought they might start smashing their instruments. All in all, it was an amazing show, one of the best I’ve seen at WWU.

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~ by Ian D. on April 22, 2008.

One Response to “Show Review: Rilo Kiley at WWU”

  1. Oh, your angsty teenage self? Haha. I find it interesting that Rilo Kiley spoke to you at such a period, but whatever – the show rocked. I thought Whispertown (although energetic and pretty awesome) suffered a bit from the lead singer veering out of tone repeatedly, but the cowbell moment did kind of make up for it. Plus, that back-up singer that played pretty much every instrument (including the kazoo)? So hot.

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