House of Blues
October 2, 2007
Rilo Kiley is a band known for reinvention; Lead singer Jenny Lewis and guitarist Blake Sennett have both reinvented themselves from former child stars into musicians.
After joining forces with drummer Jason Boesel and bass guitarist Pierre de Reeder in 2001 to produce three albums, Lewis and Sennett spent the past two years reinventing themselves with successful side projects.
And at their performance at the Orlando House of Blues on October 2, the band transformed itself from indie rock band to pop performers.
It’s hard to swallow at times, yet the crowd generally accepted the new Rilo Kiley with open arms, even as they clapped, sang and dance that much harder to the tried and true.
An opening performance by Grand Ole Party with its rebellious, foot-stomping, witty and well-paced indie rock set the tone for Rilo Kiley’s soulful and sassy, candid yet playful songs.
Coming back from Lewis’ critically acclaimed solo album and Sennett’s chance as front man of The Elected, the band just released its major label album Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros.), a cleaned up, sugar bop sort of album compared to 2004’s More Adventurous.
Lewis entered the stage dressed in black hot pants and a black satin pseudo-tux top. Backup singers wore matching silvery, sparkled leggings. Oh yes, the band was ready for the party to start.
No doubt they did it right with a crowd pleaser like “It’s a Hit,” the anti-George Bush anthem. The entire band is talented and worth watching, but all eyes are on Lewis’ flowing red locks and flirtatious vocals. She sounded a little like a combination of the sweetness of Metric’s Emily Haines, the alt-country vocals of Loretta Lynn and the attitude of Ani DiFranco.
Sennett announced “Close Call,” off their new album and the packed crowd of indie kids and well-dressed high school girls cheered gleefully. It seems the new Rilo Kiley can mix just as well with new fans as they can with the old – the hipster, the cynical, the delightfully indie.
At the top of their lungs the crowd sang along to the next sexy, bitter favorite, "Portions For Foxes." And maybe “Breakin Up” is trying to be that old Rilo Kiley—that cooing, adorable vent on the hypocrisy and shittiness of life. But as Lewis strut around the stage clinking a cowbell and singing “Ooh, it, feels good to be free,” the song about cell phone reception and teeny bop heartache seemed all too happy and, well, cute.
After all, “Moneymaker,” one of the first two hits released off the new album, is the quintessential catchy beat ripe for use at strip clubs and other true users of the blacklight. It can just go away, get back to “Waves and Wires” or “With Arms Outstretched.” Not that the crowd minded the song, and not that it isn’t fun or entertaining, it’s just an obvious radio hit and so far from the quality of work off More Adventurous.
Sennett, who only wrote one song on this album, stepped up front and introduced his “brother” Snowball. “He was born on an Indian reservation in Idaho,” Sennett said. “This is his favorite song. Try to hear it through Snowball’s ears,” as the band broke into one of Lewis’ songs “Rise Up With Fists!!” from her solo album. It’s one of the night’s many examples of the band’s truly polished musicianship, along with alt-country tunes like “I Never” and Sennett’s ukulele-powered “Rhipcord.”
With their sound and Lewis’ presence, there is no need for a reinvention as a pop band with radio hits. But if that’s the direction Rilo Kiley is going, fans will follow—with teeny bopper dedication and indie soul.