Bright Eyes / Jenny and Johnny - live in Denver (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bright Eyes / Jenny and Johnny

live in Denver (2011)

live show

I've seen a lot of bands play the Fillmore in Denver over the years, from Brand New to Megadeth to the Used (don't ask) to Social Distortion, and every time I see a show there, I like it a little less. Your shoes stick to the floor, there's an excessively huge barrier between the stage and the audience, and the PA doesn't sound as good as some other comparatively sized venues in the city. That said, when I learned Bright Eyes would be hitting the Fillmore on what is supposedly their final tour, I didn't hesitate one second before deciding to go. The show had been rescheduled at the last minute to Sunday from Friday due to an Oberst family emergency, but judging by the completely full room, everyone had adjusted their schedules accordingly.

Jenny and Johnny, the (relatively) new project from (former?) Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis and singer/songwriter Jonathan Rice, kicked things off at exactly 8:00 PM. While the band is called Jenny and Johnny, they might as well have been called Jenny and a couple other guys you won't pay attention to. Lewis was unquestionably the star of the show, jumping from guitar to bass to drums to keys to what sounded like a theramin, and singing, of course. Her voice sounds just as great live as it does in the studio, and she's an insanely energetic frontwoman to boot. The rest of the band held their own, but frankly, they were kind of easy to ignore.

They played most of their debut album, I'm Having Fun Now, over the course of their 45-minute set, from "My Pet Snake" (Introduced as "a reggae jam for all the stoners out there") to the more punk rock "Committed". "Big Wave" had the crowd waving during the chorus and was one of the highlights of their set. The backing players left the stage for the last song, leaving the eponymous duo to perform "The End of the Affair". It was a nice way to get the crowd ready for Bright Eyes, as the majority of Jenny and Johnny's material is considerably more upbeat than the headliners, at least in sound, if not in lyrical content.

After a 30-minute wait, the spoken-word intro to "Firewall", from this year's The People's Key, began playing over the PA as Bright Eyes made their way to the stage, and from there the stream of "Woohoo!"s and "I love you Conor!"s didn't let up. This was clearly a very passionate crowd, and the band on stage was no less into it.

The first thing that struck me was how big the band actually was. The lineup fluctuated throughout the night, but at times utilized as many as seven people. SEVEN. For an act that many still perceive as one dude with an acoustic guitar, that's kind of a lot, but it never felt like overkill. The dual drums employed throughout the night enhanced things considerably.

Also notable is the diversity of the material the band played. From the electronic-based "Take It Easy (Love Nothing)" to the almost metal-like intensity of "Jejune Stars" to the country/folk stylings of "Four Winds"...and that was just in the first 15 minutes! The band played a little bit of everything, and had something to offer everyone. My only complaint is not getting to hear my all-time favorite Bright Eyes song (as well as the one that introduced me to their work), "At the Bottom of Everything", although they teased the first 30 seconds or so of it before launching into "Bowl of Oranges". I was not pleased. To paraphrase Big Worm, "Stop playing with my emotions!"

That little cruel joke aside, this was a great night of live music. If this is really the end of the road for Bright Eyes, or honestly, even if it isn't, this is not a show you want to miss.

Set list:

  1. Firewall
  2. Haile Selassie
  3. Take It Easy (Love Nothing)
  4. Jejune Stars
  5. Four Winds
  6. An Attempt to Tip the Scales
  7. Bowl of Oranges
  8. Something Vague
  9. Shell Games
  10. Approximated Sunlight
  11. Arc of Time (Time Code)
  12. Falling Out of Love at This Volume
  13. Cartoon Blues
  14. Beginner's Mind
  15. Old Soul Song
  16. Cleanse Song
  17. Hot Knives
  18. Poison Oak
  19. The Calendar Hung Itself
  20. Ladder Song
  21. Landlocked Blues
  22. Lover I Don't Have to Love
  23. Road to Joy
  24. One for You, One for Me