As the opening riff of “Run Devil Run” echoed from the stage at The Chicago Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 8, fans were momentarily perplexed as Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins (Chandra and Leigh Watson) were noticeably absent from the proceedings. Suddenly, off in the distance emerged soft, beautiful harmonies and the iconic vocal melody that opens Lewis’ seminal 2006 album, “Rabbit Fur Coat.” Heads turned to the back of the venue as Lewis and The Watson Twins slowly made their way to the stage– each holding a single burning candle – until they reached their perfectly positioned mics, amplifying their once naked vocals.
This prelude promenade set the stage for what would become a tonal evening bursting with perfectly performed soulful songs in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of
“Rabbit Fur Coat.” Lewis’ debut solo release may never get the credit it deserves for its genre-blending effects on the independent music scene – or for giving young women the confidence to be simultaneously strong and sweet or “Nice as F*ck,” if you will – but fans at the Chicago Theatre were more than ready to honor the album that has meant so much to them over they years, soaking in every perfectly executed note and line of captivating, heartfelt storytelling.
Even before Lewis started her set, concert-goers knew that they were in for a special show as playbills, revealing that the performance would be presented in three acts, were handed out as they were guided to their seats. The Cactus Blossoms, an Americana duo based out of Minneapolis, set the stage nicely with their acoustic picking and charming melodies. Some fans may have felt a twinge of disappointment that Conor Oberst wasn’t on hand as he was during the first two dates of this leg of Lewis’ tour, but his absence was soon forgotten when the siren songs of “Rabbit Fur Coat” filled the air.
“Rise up With Fists!!” proved to be a highlight of the night as Lewis’ smiled defiantly at the idea of waking “up younger under the knife” as she sang the most unassuming protest song ever written. The entire venue hung on every precise note of the somber ballad “Happy,” Lewis strumming the foundation of the delicate track with her acoustic guitar, and her Traveling Wilburys’ cover, “Handle Me with Care,” added layers of nostalgia to an already sentimental evening.
Enough can’t be said about the underrated talent of The Watson Twins. Their vocal touches, no matter how subtle, lift and highlight portions of Lewis’ music in indescribable ways. Blending into the background, yet somehow at the forefront of everything, their haunting melodies cut right to the heart of each and every phrase.
The second of Lewis’ two sets, entitled “Voyage through the Past, Present and Future,” delivered songs spanning the songwriter’s Rilo Kiley days up through her latest solo release,”The Voyager.”
“Rabbit Fur Coat” may have been released a decade ago, but Lewis shows no signs of slowing down. Head over to JennyLewis.com to stay-up-to date with tour dates, news and future releases.