Wednesday night, an important time in the career of LA indie rock queen Jenny Lewis came to a close.
After a nearly year-and-a-half touring cycle, her run of shows in support of her acclaimed album The Voyager finished up with two nights at the Observatory in Santa Ana, where the first “official” show of her tour took place last May.
Along the way, I managed to see Jenny Lewis play 15 stops on this tour. From festival stops at Coachella (twice) and Hangout and Sasquatch and Life is Beautiful, to a half-dozen shows in LA, to shows in the OC, Oakland, Petaluma and Pomona, I saw Jenny Lewis “more days than I’ve seen my mom this year,” as one friend put it to me.
As she did with nearly all of her sets on this tour, she kicked things off with the RK-favorite “Silver Lining,” which by now everyone knows the words to. She transitioned into “Head Underwater” off The Voyager, and I was surprised to see how almost nobody wasn’t singing along to that one, a more recent song that hasn’t gotten the kind of exposure that other songs on the album have.
Given that a lot of the album was born out of a painful time in Lewis’ life, it must be cathartic to be bringing this chapter of her story to a close. Still, there was a noticeable sentimentality that Lewis held onto as she performed many of the songs on this night. When it came for Voyager deep cut “Late Bloomer,” Lewis gave insight into the song and how it was sorta-kinda based on her backpacking to Europe as a child, as well as the songwriting process with Beck, who heard her strum the chords and forced her to go into the other room to finish it.
Nostalgia was in full force. Lewis reminded the crowd and herself of the OC basically being the roots of Rilo Kiley, the first place that she remembers people traveling to see her band in its earliest days. She mentioned the Anaheim club Chain Reaction, where the band played in 2001, and fans clamored for “Glendora,” a song that Lewis has a ton of disdain for and usually doesn’t react very positively to when requested. This night was a much different story.
I had previously seen Lewis hand the mic off to a female fan in Pomona at the Fox Theater earlier this tour and she recited the first verse. On this night, one of her diehard male fans crushed the first verse, and Lewis allowed the fan to finish the entire song as other die-hard followers sang along the words that they knew. Lewis referred to the song as the most embarrassing she ever wrote, and with lyrics like “Would you fuck me? ‘Cause I’d fuck me,” I don’t blame her, but even that early in her career you could sense great things were coming from her in the future.
A few new songs made an appearance during the set. The melodic and beautiful “Red Bull and Hennessy” was well-received. “Girl on Girl,” which debuted at a HAIM benefit show and later featured the Valley sisters’ help at her first weekend set at Coachella, was already being sung along to.
I’ve seen Jenny perform “A Better Son/Daughter” 12 times on this tour. Over time, it still hasn’t lost its luster and I find myself getting goosebumps with each performance. At The Wiltern, I saw a girl bawl her eyes out with her friend consoling her, one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever witnessed at a show. A similar thing took next to me at the final show Wednesday night. This time, it was multiple fans whose eyes welled up and got glassy, and it was something Jenny referred to in her set, saying she’s happy that the song has so much meaning to so many people.
In the encore, Jenny dusted off a favorite of mine from her album with the Watson Twins, “Melt Your Heart.” It’s the first time she’s played it in 2015, if setlist.fm is to be believed. She played it at her warmup show at The Roxy, so it was only fitting that things came full circle on the last show of the tour. Voyager deep cut “Aloha and the Three Johns,” which had a special edition comic book made for these two Observatory shows, was played.
The show came to a close with the title track from The Voyager, one of the most moving songs that Lewis has ever written. It wasn’t a song she performed that often on the tour, maybe due to the level of sentiment it carries for her at the time. Prior to her taking the stage earlier that night, a mariachi band did a rousing rendition of “The Voyager.” It was only right for Lewis to close her tour out with a spirited performance of the song, featuring amazing backing vocals from her female bandmates.
As the show closed, Lewis took extra time to take in the last few moments on stage. She walked over and grabbed a bouquet of flowers from one of her hundreds of admirers in attendance. She waved and mouthed “thank you” to the crowd before walking off.
One of my big takeaways from following Jenny Lewis on this tour has been that at this stage of her career she’s appealing to a larger fan base than she ever has. She has as hardcore of a fan base as anyone I’ve ever seen live. Her music has touched people in a way that had a girl scream out during a silent break, “Your music saved my life, Jenny!” Based on interviews Lewis has given regarding the recording of this album, it’s quite clear that Lewis’ music has probably saved her own life as well.
It’s why so many people are eager to see what’s next and sad that this tour has come to a conclusion.