Walking through the parking lot of the Observatory in Santa Ana, I pondered just who the touted "very special guests" accompanying Jenny Lewis for the last night of her "Voyager" tour might be. Recalling past performances by the Queen of indie rock, I ran through her Royal Court of regular special guests: Conor Oberst, Tim Kasher, Ben Gibbard, M Ward, the Watson Twins and more recently, LA's latest and greatest girl power group, Haim.
It was fittingly Womens' Equality Day, here on this auspicious day of the 95th anniversary of womens' right to vote in the US. And in a way, it was apt that Jenny Lewis was performing the last vestige of the tour for her latest album, The Voyager.
Ms. Lewis owns the space every generation of alternative-minded young folks need: a torch bearer for the young, vulnerable, creative and independent women of a subculture. Folks of the '40s had Ella, the youth of the '60s had Janis and the '90s kids had Lauryn. We have Jenny.
Her songs shine light upon issues young people ponder upon but rarely talk about publicly: it's okay for a woman to be sexual, it's okay to not have it all figured out yet, and even people as talented, intelligent, beautiful and worshiped as Jenny Lewis are insecure--and that's okay too.
The night began with a sold-out crowd forgoing personal space and filling into the large room of the Observatory for a chance to hear the voice of Rilo Kiley, the voice of the Voyager, the voice of all our private thoughts we never knew how to articulate aloud.
There were several pre-mature cheers for the band as the roadies set up and the lighting was tested, but finally, the cheers welcomed a five-piece string outfit onto the stage: all women, all wearing black Mexican-inspired dresses with darling floral trims. They launched into the intro for the song "The Voyager" and the audience punctuated the instrumental number with roarous applause.
And then it all went black.
Lewis' band embarked upon the stage first, and Lewis soon followed in a satin suit, just as black. The electronic, beatific intro to "Silver Lining" started off the set, once again to roarous applause.
During "Head Underwater" when the song came around to the line "There's a little bit of magic..." canons on both sides of the stage shot out enough confetti to make the Adicts blush. Errant pieces of colored tissue paper continued to fall from the ceiling for at least the next five songs.
Lewis dissapeared briefly during the epic "Last Messiah" only to re-emerge from a costume change into a tour-signature white pantsuit with the spectral "Voyager" print.
The set then flowed into "You Are What You Love" from her debut solo album. Local sisters the Summer Twins came out to take the place of the Watson Twins' album role on the track.
She shared a new track called "Red Bull and Hennessy" to which my guy noted sounded remarkably like Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams." It is not a stretch to compare The Voyager to Rumours, especially in comparison to her earlier folk-rock roots.
It was the last night of her over year-long album tour. Why end it with two nights in Santa Ana? Why not end it in Silverlake? Jenny gave us an answer: "We started in Silverlake, but the first time people came out to see us was you guys in Orange County; Chain Reaction and..." she trailed off as the crowd cheered once more. "So, thank you."
During the encore, they played a relatively new song, "Girl on Girl"--a song she debuted with and typically brings out Haim with. But the LA girls must be busy touring with T. Swift (good for them) and did not come out this time. Just who would be the touted special guest? Time was running out.
"And we're going to end where we started," Jenny explained, referring to the opening string session. And there we got the full version of the title track "The Voyager". It was just Ms. Lewis, guitarist Meagan McCormick and Tristen Gaspadarek--what a glorious way to end Womens' Equality Day.
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There were no spectacular "very special guests" as you may have read online or on a flyer. No Johnny Depp, no Blake Sennett formerly of Rilo Kiley like at Coachella earlier this year, no Tony Clifton. And that was just fine. Every musician that graced the stage was a very special guest--they shared the stage with Jenny Lewis, for godssake. And even if they weren't Saddle Creek Saints they still owned every instrument they played and played an important part in the night.
And if you'll allow us, we'd like to end with Her Indie Highness' own quote: "Hello, Voyagers! Thank you for being here on our last night. We'll be back again soon, in another ship."