23rd July | SWX
Photos: Kristina Kimlickova
Having taken on the responsibility amongst my friendship group as the gig guru, I’m always recommending places to catch good live music and nights. On this occasion, it was my good friend Hannah who suggested we catch Jenny Lewis at her Bristol date. Hannah’s got two Jenny Lewis tattoos, so with that level of commitment, I thought she must be pretty good.
We made our way to SWX and although it is a nightclub that some associate with ‘youngsters’ and the aroma of VKs, I must admit that the sound system at SWX is first-class and probably one of the best in Bristol.
I never thought I would ever witness traditional Irish folk music being performed in a club; a B*Witched tune blasting from the speakers at Pop World doesn’t count. Support for the evening were Dublin-based Slow Moving Clouds, who enchanted the audience with decorative string sections and soaring vocals which were reminiscent of Robert Plant’s latest release. It was mythical and ambient. They shared charismatic anecdotes about Finland and sadness, all delivered with dry wit which made us chuckle.
The lights dimmed and Jenny entered the stage with a floor-length sparkly gown and fluffy sleeves and a bouffant that would rival Jane Fonda’s. Her band were all decked in slick suits and I paid special attention to the pink microphones. Sitting behind the piano, Jenny soothed us with a rendition of ‘Heads Gonna Roll’ from her latest release. A country-tinged ballad with a bellowing drum sound, Jenny’s cinematic songwriting really takes the lead on this track.
When she wasn’t playing guitar or piano, Jenny would make full use of the stage. During ‘Do Si So’, she stood on a raised platform so those at the back could marvel at her glittery dress. The stage lights dimmed and only her silhouette was visible, instantly recognisable with her fluffy sleeves, backcombed hair and poised arm gestures. Special shout-out to the light-up tambourine which she was playing during the song.
Somebody shouted out, “We love your dress!” to which Jenny replied, “Thank you, it’s not very weather appropriate!” If there’s one thing I took from this gig, it was her ferocious vocal runs, expressive, bold and strangely intimate. At times she would hold the microphone at arms length, her raw lyrics and seamless vocal runs ensuring that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house – versatile is an understatement.
During ‘Little White Dove’, massive pink and blue balloons drifted down from the upper balcony, the disco balls were in full swing and everyone was there to party. “Would you guys mind using your phones to light up my dress?” Jenny coolly asked. “Light me up like a Jewish disco ball.” Concluding with ‘With Arms Outstretched’, it felt a poignant number to end the celebrations on: swooning lyrics which made me ache, in a good way.
Jenny took a sip from her crystal encrusted goblet and left the stage. Jenny Lewis is wondrously charismatic and her show was nothing shy of neon kitsch dream.
See Jenny Lewis perform ‘With Arms Outstretched’ live here: