Last Night: Rilo Kiley, Jonathan Rice and Grand Ole Party @ The Ogden Theater

Categories: Last Night

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Rilo Kiley, Jonathan Rice and Grand Ole Party
September 11, 2007
The Ogden Theater

Better than: The next Denver show they play, which will undoubtedly be at the Fillmore and I'll be that snob you know who says, “I saw them at the 15th Street Tavern on their first tour, so I've no need to see them now.” I hate that guy. I am that guy.

Grand Ole Party opened the show with a smokin' variation on a pretty popular theme. Imagine a bizzaro-world White Stripes, a stripped-down and smoky blues rock trio where the female lead singer belts out a surprisingly forceful howl that is as pitch-perfect as it is hair-raising. Party's Kristin is a wonder of tonal physics; how that much sound can resonate from such a tiny frame is something I'll never understand. And she does it all while drumming. Eat your fucking hearts out Phil Collins and Don Henley. Her bandmates kept up nicely last night as they tore through the soulful material, with Party's guitarist adeptly striking out a solid bluesy fuzz with his G&L Telecaster knock-off.

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As Jonathan Rice took the stage, a Scot who's rumored to be Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis' current main squeeze, my buddy Bruk leaned over to me and admitted, “I. Fucking. Hate. Singer-songwriters.” And while Rice strummed his way through the first few songs, I felt pretty ambivalent about this Billy Bragg-a-like. But when his band came out, and his guitarist moved effortlessly between playing slide on his Les Paul and aping that jangly Byrds sound on his Rickenbacher, rocking out tunes with influences from Tom Petty to post-punk to alt-country (y'alternative if you prefer), I moved from ambivalent to the bar, with a smile on my face. And then down to the front of the stage where I watched a young band come into their own on stage. Rice's mock (but not mocking) humility between songs gave his banter an impeccable comedic timing, and his songs spoke of heartache and politics with equal and honest power. I had slowly worked my way from shrugging with indifference to nodding my head and curling my lip in rock appreciation by the time Jenny Lewis (cue the 16-year-old cheers) made her way out on stage for a phenomenal duet with Rice. Lewis knows how to pick 'em. She dated Connor Bright Eyes Voice of a Generation Sigghhhhhh Oberst and, while Rice's music doesn't touch that of Bright Eyes, I hereby predict big things to come for him. Not that sleeping with Jenny Lewis isn't accomplishment enough.

Da dum, ching!

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Rilo Kiley took forfuckingever to set up. So, to get the whole feeling of the evening, call a friend of yours now and have them put you on hold for 30 minutes while the band Love plays in the background. Oh, and drink too many beers. That way your judgment will be impaired and will waffle without credibility.

After the last two albums, I'm really ready to write this band off (remember that guy from the first paragraph? here he comes again). Under the Blacklight, is an album produced for a very distinct commercial effect, and there's nothing wrong with that, it's just that this band used to rock on its records, while now they disco limp-wristedly. A glittering gold curtain rose behind the stage. Yawn. The band FINALLY came out, in un-rock uniforms. Boooo.

And then they slayed it. Absolutely destroyed it. This band is soooo polished in their recordings, but still achieves the raw rock energy they always have with their live act. Anchoring the band, is one of the sharpest rhythm sections on the planet. Pierre de Reeder on bass and Jason Boesel flat-out rock, while Jenny and Blake have honed their performance and craft to the point of perfection.

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Sure, the perfect sing-along to “With Arms Outstretched” was ruined as it fed into jarring techno intro to a song I missed because I was driven to the bar, but there were moments of brilliance too. The ten-minute version “Portions For Foxes” was a rock gem that left me hungry, and they fed us older fans a few brilliant tunes off of Takeoffs and Landings, mixing it up enough to keep everyone happy.

And that's what they do these days, they keep making people happy. I wanted to be a hater; because I'm snob. But that show last night rocked my eyes from my sockets and shut me the fuck up.
-- Sean Cronin

Critic’s Notebook
Personal Bias:
Rock over disco. Seriously, some of the new tracks are awful.
Random Detail: Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel was in the crowd, up front watching the opening acts, clapping and cheering louder than anyone. What a badass.
By the Way: Jenny's outfit was straight out Vegas. Or an American Apparel ad. Or somewhere in between.

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