Sadly, Jenny and Johnny, the duo of girlfriend/boyfriend Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice, are no Rilo Kiley. While it might be unfair to compare Lewis’ latest project with her more popular band, the expectation is that her voice and songwriting can turn anything to gold.
She’s largely done so as the leader of Rilo Kiley and through two superb solo albums, but this latest project with Rice is kind of a disappointment. And little from the duo’s 70-minute set last night at the Beachland Ballroom did anything to change that.
Accompanied by Rilo Kiley’s drummer Jason Boesel and an auxiliary guitarist, Jenny and Johnny opened with “Scissor Runner,” he first cut on Jenny and Johnny's recently released album I’m Having Fun Now. It was a strong beginning, but what followed was boring.
Jenny and Johnny seem to be striving for an Americana vibe — a tinge of country with a sprinkle of adult contemporary hidden under a veil of hipster indie rock.
But as more of Fun’s songs unfolded, it didn’t really work. Nothing Lewis and Rice did seemed to help, including switching instruments or swapping vocals, as the two traded back and forth guitar and bass and shared the microphone.
It was only when the two unplugged and sent the other two musicians offstage that Jenny and Johnny truly excelled. They were excellent during a mid-set version of Rice’s “End of the Affair,” harmonizing beautifully. You had to wonder why the entire set couldn’t be like this.
To be fair, the two did well on Lewis’ solo songs too, closing the set with a raucous “The Next Messiah,” and then hitting all the right notes on “Carpetbaggers” during the encore.
But, when Jenny and Johnny ended the show with a pair of acoustic songs without the band, the finale being a compelling cover of “Love Hurts,” it made us wish the whole show could have been this stripped down. —Aaron Mendelsohn
Did you go to the show? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments.
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