Rilo Kiley at First Ave

By Amy Shaunette

If there was already a theory in place that it’s nearly impossible for Rilo Kiley to deliver a bad live show, their Sept. 14th performance at First Avenue further proves that the band can do no wrong. The Los Angeles-based indie pop/folk quartet has been topping charts and breaking hearts since their debut album was released in 2001. Three full-length albums later, the band is more popular than ever, and with good reason.Their albums fit together seamlessly, each one picking up where the last left off and offering something different without presenting an entirely new sound. Rilo Kiley is comfortable; dependable. You can count on them to cheer you up on a blue day, or commiserate with you when the tears fall. They’re there when you need to dance around and celebrate being alive, or when you need a quiet moment to yourself. And they manage to do all this while still maintaining a cohesive, signature sound. It’s cute, but it’s meaningful; uplifting, but melancholy. Their music can be whatever you need it to be.

Last Friday, the anticipation built as Rilo Kiley’s adoring fans patiently waited for the band to start the show. As she took the stage, frontwoman Jenny Lewis sparkled, quite literally. Scantily clad in glittery silver shorts and iridescent tights, with spotlights bouncing off her signature red hair, Lewis was a vision. The band opened with “It’s A Hit,” beginning a long set of songs from all four albums, including their latest, “Under the Blacklight,” which was released this past August.

I’ve always found it hard to form a bond with new albums, but Rilo Kiley played songs from “Blacklight” with such spirit and expertise that I found myself forgetting the older songs even existed. When Lewis sang super catchy “Breakin’ Up,” the audience threw all their energy into shouting along with the refrain, “Oooh, it feels good to be free” as they danced across the floor. The crowd’s happiness was infectious. I felt completely swept away, enthralled by every sound and movement. I, like the rest of the audience, couldn’t get enough.

I often wonder what the ultimate goal of a live performance should be, and Rilo Kiley made me realize that a successful show is one that transports the audience to a world where what’s going on inside that club at that moment is the only thing that matters. What is there to worry about when great music is happening right in front of you? On Friday, it felt like no one in the room had any worries or insecurities at all. As long as Lewis kept singing, the world would be at peace. We just had to keep dancing, sing a little bit louder, and everything outside of First Avenue could wait.

The music was flawless, the audience was friendly and fun, but good looks aside, the band was lacking. They were very impersonal, making little effort to converse with the audience. There were no funny stories from the road or memories of sitting down to write songs. They didn’t give the usual “You guys are a great crowd.” courtesy speech. Lewis and the boys played their music, smiled a lot, and left, and if it hadn’t been for the stage lights and energetic crowd, there wasn’t much of a difference between the Rilo Kiley on stage and the Rilo Kiley in my iTunes. But despite their lack of enthusiasm, rocking out under the blacklights of First Avenue, the band sounded better than ever.