Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lewis Lips Sink Ships

Saw Jenny Lewis And The Watson Twins at The Glee Club in Birmingham on Wednesday (8th). Johnathan Rice was on support and he and his instrumentalist friend joined the girls for the headline show. I'm not that familiar with Rice's work but the songs that he introduced as new ones sounded more gritty and interesting than the older material so his next album may well be a better starting point than his last.

Jenny looked and sounded on good form, her voice displaying a greater vulnerability live which works to make her more likeable than her 'too-cool-for-Sunday-School' media image. The set fed almost exclusively from her impressive solo debut 'Rabbit Fur Coat' while The Watson Twins (think Tegan and Sara but way taller) added a slightly surreal sophistication to the otherwise rootsy material. The standout (as on the album) was 'Born Secular' a vibrant ballad that required Jenny to hold several long notes in short succession, a real stretch for any larynx in a live setting but she held it together beautifully, leading to an a capella finale with the girls' voices fading gently into the night as they slowly made their way back into the dressing-room for a gently haunting climax.

One minor gripe about the venue though: is it really so necessary for the Johnny Walker-wannabe PA to sternly advise us that any talking whatsoever during the performances will lead to ejection, and that alcohol should be bought before the show starts? Why not respect the audience enough to understand that an acoustic performance in intimate surroundings requires some consideration with regards to loud conversation? As it is, both Rice and Lewis seem flummoxed by the religious reverence during the songs, Rice asking whether we are all scared schoolchildren and Lewis barely disguising her bewilderment as she advises us we are 'the most polite polite audience I think I've ever played to'. This isn't the opera: Glee Club need to rethink and let their audience relax more, which in turn will bring the best out of their (often quite sensitive) artists.


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