Erin Batchelder '17 Assistant Arts Editor
Jenny Lewis has led an extraordinary life. At the age of three, she began a brief career as a child star — appearing in films alongside other ’80s heartthrobs like Corey Haim and on classic sitcoms like “The Golden Girls.” When she returned to the spotlight, she was the frontwoman of one of the 2000s’ most beloved indie rock bands, Rilo Kiley. In her solo career and side projects, she collaborates with the biggest names in indie-folk — Ryan Adams, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie).
Currently, she is on tour in support of her third solo album “The Voyager.” Released in mid-July this past year, the new record blends Lewis’ matured singing and writing abilities with faint nods to Rilo Kiley. And let’s not forget the signature splash of Californian sensibility. Unless she’s embarking on a major tour, it’s rare for Lewis to make it all the way to the East Coast. Her last visit, in support of her collaboration with longtime boyfriend Johnathan Rice, was on the reunion tour of the band Pavement. Having Lewis as a solo act is a rare treat for east coasters, and when she visited Northampton and the Calvin Theater, she did not disappoint.
For an opening act, Lewis brought Girlpool on the road — a two-piece, all female-group from Los Angeles. While the theater didn’t fill until Lewis’s set, Girlpool delivered an intimate and powerful performance. Their songs, faintly reminiscent of Liz Phair, filled the giant venue, and the two young musicians sang the praises of Lewis as a performer and role model.
The stage itself was designed much like the cover art of “The Voyager” with rainbow ripples and waves all over the backdrop as well as the various instruments set up on stage, including Lewis’ signature Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.
After Girlpool’s too-brief set, the theater began to fill and buzz with anticipation for Lewis, who shortly emerged wearing a silk all-black ensemble. There was no big entrance — in fact, Lewis blended in perfectly with her back up band. However, once the first song began, she commanded the stage and the attention of the audience.
Her set was a perfect marriage of old and new. Starting with the title track and main ballad of “The Voyager,” Lewis quickly followed with Rilo Kiley’s last single, “Silver Lining.” While she played nearly all of her new songs, she also played a mixture of her solo work as well as some even older Rilo Kiley classics. One of the highlights of the night was a brief appearance from Johnathan Rice during one of Lewis’s more heavy rock songs, “The Next Messiah.” Rice, a constant fixture in Lewis’s touring band, spent most of the night watching Lewis perform from the wing.
Lewis herself was mesmerizing. She was constantly interacting with the crowd — whether that be reaching out to hold hands with someone or handing out bundles of fresh flowers. Her eyes were always looking around, eager to make a connection with one of the hundreds of faces in the crowd.
More than anything, Lewis proved that she isn’t going anywhere. In this day and age, taking breaks between releasing music can be detrimental. Too many times in recent years have bands been forgotten about simply because they needed to get their lives in order before undertaking the grueling task of touring. Lewis proved herself to be at the top of her game. The past decade and a half of her career has shaped her into one of the best performers on stage today, and while she’s already a well-established fixture in the folk music world, her new efforts show that she’s about to find a whole new crop of fans.