There is no question that a great deal of "hype" surrounds Rilo Kiley at the moment. Great press is rolling in like hurricane-spawned waves against the Florida coastline, their in-store at LA's Amoeba Records was the largest in the store's history... and so on. Last night, the band made their way to Chicago and although Franz Ferdinand was also in town, I was compelled to see if this Rilo Kiley band was really as good as everyone says they are (besides, I've already seen Franz twice). At first, I was a little bit bummed to find out that the band wasn't going on until 11:00, but then I realized that the timing was perfect for me to watch the entire presidential debate AND watch some follow-up coverage on CNN. I mean, I thought Kerry was clearly victorious in revealing what a bumbling fool our current president is, but I just wouldn't feel right unless Judy Woodruff concurred. Following the debate and a sprinkle of post-debate coverage, I laced up my sneakers and headed out the door to make the long journey to the Abbey Pub - a great spot, but so far North that it's hard to believe it's actually still considered Chicago.
All of that political talk may seem like it's way off the subject, but in reality, it's the perfect segue to get me started on the actual show, as the event was one of quite a few Music For America Voter Registration Concerts held in Chicago over the past week. After making it past the guy at the door, who did everything but take a retinal scan of my eye to prove my identity and strip search me to make sure I wasn't packin' any heat, I walked in to the opening notes (literally) of the band's very first song, "It's A Hit". Most bands don't typically start out a show by playing the first single (and best known track) from their new album, but Rilo did exactly that.
I was wondering how the band was going to duplicate the thick, full sound heard on More Adventurous with only four members, but that was quickly solved. During "It's A Hit", there is a portion of the song that features a brass section. When I heard the trumpets sounding at the Abbey, I looked to see who was playing the keyboards but found that, hiding off in the back corner of the stage, was a pair of young ladies blowing away (on their instruments, sicko). It sounded amazing and definitely set the tone for the rest of the set. Those two young women spent the entire night hiding at the back of the stage playing a variety of string and brass instruments, but out front stood Jenny Lewis, right where she belongs. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman, besides being stunningly attractive, proved to have quite the stage presence as well. Throughout the night, Lewis jumped back and forth between center stage, where she played guitar and sang, to stage right, where she played piano (and harmonica once) and sang. She never took her guitar off, even while playing the keyboard, save for once when she walked through the crowd and then returned to the stage to roll around on the floor.
The majority of the band's set was pulled from their most recent release, More Adventurous. Songs like "Portions For Foxes", "Ripchord", "Accidental Death" and "Does He Love You?" were all crowd favorites, as was an encore performance that included a version of the Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" (Iron & Wine acoustic style) with the entire crowd singing along and helping with the words when the band forgot them. Jenny had been with the Postal Service (she sings on the album) at the very same venue many moons ago and after the song she asked if anyone had been there for the Postal Service show. Before I knew it, I was actually yelling "I WAS, WOOO HOOO!". Lame, I know, but I was just happy and excited that my decision to skip out on Franz to see Rilo Kiley was, in fact, the right one. Needless to say, this band more than lived up to my expectations. I highly recommend going to see them.