Reviews

The Execution of All Things

Author: Dylan Metrano
01/19/2004 | Envy13.com | www.envy13.com | Live Show Preview
This was a good night at the Middle East. The show was sold-out, but not as crowded as that would seem to imply. Apparently Rilo Kiley was concerned that they wouldn't be able to bring the kids out to see them perform an acoustic set. This show could have easily been in the bigger, downstairs room, but it was nice to have everyone packed into the little room.
Jake Bellows opened the show. He normally performs in an Omaha rock band called Neva Dinova, but tonight was just accompanied by a second guitarist. His songs were pleasant, languid, moody pop music somewhat reminiscent of Jeff Buckley or Radiohead, but more folksy and modest.
After a short break, Tilly and the Wall marched onto stage clapping and chanting. They were full of energy, and I could tell this was going to be fun. They have boys on each side of the stage- a guitarist and a keyboard player. Three girls line up at the front. One is a tap dancer, the other two percussionists. All five sing. All their songs sound like cheers or jump-rope songs, and they are super-catchy. It kind of has the feel of kids at summer camp making up songs in their bunk beds, but it all comes together with multi-part harmonies and complicated rhythms. The tap dancing is actually a really great rhythmic foundation to the songs, and a delight to watch. All the girls have big smiles on their faces when they sing, they seemed to really love what they do. The crowd loved it too, and got bigger responses for each number. A definate highlight was their spot-on cover of Outkast's 'Hey-Ya!'. It was quite faithful to the original, right down to the actual dance moves from the video. Tilly and the Wall is a great live band, and I would certainly see them again.
Rilo Kiley performed mostly as a duo, Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennett. Past performances I have seen by them have been quite dynamic and rockin', so I was anxious to see how they would come across on this sit-down, acoustic tour.
It wasn't really acoustic. Acoustic guitars were supplimented by harmonica, electric piano, electric guitar, and a small synthesizer. But it was stripped-down, and quiet.
They started with a few familiar numbers from both of their records, and they sounded nice. Sometimes parts were sung with more care than on the records, sometimes with a more country sound. Jenny and Blake's harmonies were lovely, and it was good to hear the songs stripped down to their essence.
They played quite a few new songs from their upcoming record, due this spring on Saddle Creek. Jenny played a solo number on the electric piano that was jazzier than the rest, and the remaining material highlighted their familiar, strong voices and Blake's excellent guitar playing.
There was a weird cover of Robert Palmer's 'Simply Irresistable', which was slowed to a dirge, and a terrific cover of Bowie's 'Rock and Roll Suicide', which they both made sound like a Rilo Kiley song, and kept the intensity of the original.
Near the end they played their signature song 'With Arms Outstretched', joined by both opening groups and most of the audience. It feels really good to be in a room singing along with two-hundred people.
It was a good night at the Middle East.