Upon purchasing my tickets for last night’s Rilo Kiley show, I inquired at the box office as to when the headliner would go on. The young lady told me that “she will go on about 10 o’clock.” She? Rilo Kiley is a four-piece band, though one that is commonly confused for singer Jenny Lewis’ platform. It’s an easy mistake to make – Lewis sings lead on almost all the songs and has become something of an indie pin-up girl. Last night’s show convinced the non-believers that the other three members are vital to the energy and magic of Rilo Kiley’s smartly-tailored pop.
The show took place in Jesse Auditorium on the campus of University of Missouri-Columbia, an auditorium that was too large for a band that has yet to make any significant strides outside of the college-rock demographic. The band’s latest, Under the Blacklight, aims to change all that, with slick ‘n dirty pop songs about sex and, occasionally, love. Whether the album is one long post-modern piss-take on L.A.’s vice culture or merely a clumsy jump towards pop stardom (I’m guessing the former), Rilo Kiley rescued the best tracks from the album amid a mix of the best tunes from its previous three albums.
The band took the stage to “It’s a Hit,” from 2004’s More Adventurous before launching into the new track “Close Call.” The song, like many of the new tracks, relies on Pierre de Reeder’s slinky bass lines and Blake Sennett’s echoing guitar leads. Sennett, whose lyrical contributions to the band have been cut back to one track per album, establishes his importance with his seemingly effortless chops, his arpeggiated plucks and rich, dreamy solos adding a crucial bit of atmosphere.
Both Lewis and Sennett got a chance to air some of their solo material as well. The band turned “Rise Up with Fists!!” (from Lewis’ solo shot Rabbit Fur Coat) from a country-flecked protest song into a hip-shaking dance number, while Sennett trotted out “Greetings in Braille” from his other band, the Elected. The proper set ended with the magnificent “Spectacular Views” from the 2002 Saddle Creek release The Execution of All Things. The song, not unlike “Portions for Foxes” (which came earlier in the set), condenses the band’s rock & roll fury and sneering sexiness into a tightly compacted ball. Kudos to the band for extending the coda into a sludgy bit of shoegaze-inspired riffage.
The encore consisted of two of the quieter tracks from More Adventurous, the acoustic guitar-led “A Man/Me/Then Jim” and the slow building story-song “Does He Love You?” It was a reminder that, behind all the glitz and glitter of their new album, Rilo Kiley can be an affecting rock & roll band.