concert reviews

Rilo Kiley at the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC, Wednesday 26 September 2007

Rilo Kiley may have seemed on the verge of splintering last year, as its two main members released albums outside the band -- singer Jenny Lewis's solo project and guitarist Blake Sennett's group the Elected. On Wednesday night at the first of two sold-out shows at the 9:30 club, though, Rilo Kiley was as cohesive as ever during a 90-minute set that made no reference to those separate journeys.

Despite Lewis's attention-grabbing silver hot pants, the show felt more like a group effort than an extension of her solo work. Her bewitching voice was still the band's greatest asset, whether gliding over cascading notes ("Close Call") or choking out lyrics (the anti-Bush number "It's a Hit"). The lady singers from opening acts Grand Ole Party and Art in Manila often joined the quartet onstage. Their harmonies with Lewis were stunning but sadly wasted on such vapid lines as the over-repeated ending to "Breakin' Up": "Oooh, it feels good to be free."

That carefree attitude made for a night of songs that sounded pretty but never seemed fully committed. Even "15," with its lyrics about underage promiscuity, seemed breezy and sweet under Lewis's breathy coo. The group did finally connect emotively on the last number, "Does He Love You?" The band's gradual crescendo captured the heartbreak that climaxed with Lewis's final gut-wrenching realization, "He will never leave you for me."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 29 September 2007; Page C12
.: Selected discography: Under the Blacklight (Rilo Kiley, 2007); More Adventurous (Rilo Kiley, 2004); The Execution of All Things (Rilo Kiley, 2002); Take Offs and Landings (Rilo Kiley, 2001); Rabbit Fur Coat (Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, 2006); Sun, Sun, Sun (the Elected, 2006); Me First (the Elected, 2004).