Jenny Lewis Dazzles The Space at Westbury [Concert Review]

Jenny Lewis
Singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis performed a powerful set mixed with new material from her latest ‘The Voyager’ and tunes from her former group Rilo Kiley at The Space at Westbury on Nov. 6, 2014. (Jeff Main/Long Island Press)

Jenny Lewis exuded ’70s California cool last Thursday onstage at The Space at Westbury as part of her tour promoting her third solo album, The Voyager. The 38-year-old songwriter’s signature music style, engaging stage presence, and powerful vocals prove yet again that she is an artist still very much in her prime.

Her genre has always been difficult to label, as her newest album proves: While revered as an indie goddess, Lewis’ music draws influences from rock, country, pop, and even disco. The artfully structured guitar and drumbeats are mixed with her expertly crafted lyrics about love and relationships, intimate insecurities, and life’s hardships.

Of course, Lewis has an abundance of upbeat, fun songs to balance out her performance, and The Voyager’s album art of lighthearted ethereal colors and cloudlike forms is reflected everywhere at her live show—the instruments, backdrop, and even Lewis’ outfit reflect this dreamlike, vibrant experience. Lewis pranced and danced around the stage with confidence, teasing the crowd with winks and outstretched hands during a nearly 10-minute performance of “The Next Messiah,” a tune that drifts between bassy groove and jazzy funk and also features male-female vocals.

“Thanks for coming out tonight. Not sure how you got here, Long Island—if you took a train, or a boat,” she joked, to resounding laughter from the audience.

Fans of Lewis from her days as frontwoman for the indie group Rilo Kiley were not disappointed. Lewis had a number of throwback tunes for fans, including opening her set with the 2007 hit “Silver Linings.” And when Lewis closed with “A Better Son/Daughter,” it seemed as if the 250-plus attendees were all singing along as she belted out the powerful finale.

Lewis then returned to the stage for a three-song encore. Before concluding with her new single, “She’s Not Me,” Lewis performed a beautifully haunting, almost a cappella version of “Acid Tongue” with her five bandmates harmonizing backup vocals behind her. She also playfully pandered to the crowd with a twist on the lyrics, singing, “I’ve been down to Montauk and dropped acid on my tongue.”

Overall, Lewis demonstrates that rare ability of appearing completely effortless as she hits high notes and strums away on her guitar. Even as the crowd and her backup singers matched every word, she still seemed to be the only voice in the venue, singing just to you.

Opening for Lewis was Girlpool, the Los Angeles-based low-fi duo, who were equally excellent. Using just a guitar, a bass, and alternating vocals—that’s right, no drummer—musicians Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker impressed the crowd with their sometimes-visceral, sometimes-fun punk tunes.

The venue was great as well. Open for only a year, The Space at Westbury offers fantastic acoustics, several bars, and a good mix of standing room and seating.

Jenny Lewis and her band performing at The Space at Westbury on Nov. 6, 2014. (Jeff Main/Long Island Press)
Jenny Lewis and her band performing at The Space at Westbury on Nov. 6, 2014. (Jeff Main/Long Island Press)

Here’s the setlist (from a fan who tore it off the stage minutes after Lewis split):

“Silver Lining”
“Just One of the Guys”
“Head Underwater”
“Slippery Slopes”
“Next Messiah”
“The Voyager”
“The New You”
“Late Bloomer”
“You Are What You Love”
“Melt Your Heart”
“Rise Up with Fists!!!”
“Love U Forever”
“A Better Son/Daughter”

“With Arms Up”
“Acid Tongue”
“She’s Not Me”

For more amazing gigs at The Space at Westbury and across Long Island, check out The Island Ear!