Jenny Lewis doesn't disappoint. Members of the audience at the Empire last night were hoping to hear tracks from Lewis' new release, Acid Tongue, and Lewis and her band delivered those tunes -- while not exactly flawlessly, which is also an attraction to see a live show, but effortlessly, with spirit. If you've never heard Jenny Lewis, her voice is a Stradivarius: sweet, silky and sultry.
My husband suggested we arrive at the nightclub on R Street in Sacramento about 5:45 PM to ensure seating. There aren't a lot of tables and chairs, and this was an all-age show, with a section reserved for those over 21. All I can say is I was thankful it wasn't mid July, because we ended up standing in line for an hour. Doors were supposed to open at 6 PM.
We haven't been to the Empire for a while. The last show we saw at that venue was a dual billing several years ago, Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. Since then, R Street has watched a Paragary's restaurant come and go, and the north side of the block between 14th and 15th has exploded with restaurants, lots of outdoor seating and people milling about.
As I glinted into the sun, I spied some dude walking up the sidewalk carrying a huge owl. Wait, that couldn't be right. Oh, of course not. That's not an owl, how silly of me. It's a monkey. Perhaps a spider monkey. My brain didn't register the fact that regardless of whether the guy was toting a live hooting owl or a monkey, you just don't see those sorts of things on the street but it didn't seem out of place. As he got closer, it was apparent he wasn't carrying either of those animals. It was a chihuahua with sunglasses. Still.
Once inside, more than an hour later, we scored a table as close to the stage as we could get, and I squeezed my butt into one of those George Jetsen swivel chairs. My husband scouted up a menu, we selected fish tacos, onion rings and a Caesar salad, and my husband left the table to order from the bartender. Well, she wasn't really a bartender because she wasn't old enough to sell cocktails. My husband said nobody has ever ordered food from her before because she had no idea about how to ring up the purchases or when the food would arrive. So my husband waited at the bar.
The Empire used to have waitresses, before the downturn in the economy, but there was none in sight last night. We didn't get the onion rings for some reason, they substituted French fries, and none of the prices on the menu matched our receipt, but what the hey, we weren't there for dinner. Dinner was just something we do around 7 PM. We were there to hear Jenny Lewis.
The show started late, after 8 PM, after an opening act from LA, The Dawes. Lewis swung out on stage, sashaying and dipping, sporting a hat you'd expect to see Tom Waitt wear -- which topped her long, wavy, red locks -- a light-colored shirt with a vest, paired with tight jeans. Her show was filled with haunting melodies, fast-paced rock, syrupy country and psychedelic rock all rolled into one. My favorite was Godspeed:
Godspeed to you
Keep the lighthouse in sight
Oops, I'm out of time. I have to run out to Folsom early this morning to take a listing. Just want to add that if you missed Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins or have never heard Rabbit Fur Coat, you're in for a treat if you pick up a couple of Jenny Lewis CDs.
The Short Sale Savior, by Elizabeth Weintraub, coming in June 2009.
Photo: Big Stock Photo