Charisma (noun): What Jenny Lewis has.
With struts, grins, points, arm swoops and copious expressions, the former Rilo Kiley frontwoman and her watertight band squeezed charm out of every inch of the Austin Ventures stage Sunday night. Lewis has made the most of her Austin City Limits Music Festival engagements, booking several other area gigs while she’s in the neighborhood, including a stellar “Austin City Limits” taping Oct. 1 at the Moody Theater. At the fest as at the taping, Lewis had her fans falling hard.
The auburn-tressed singer came armed with a fresh stock of material from her excellent new album “The Voyager,” but gems from the back catalog elicited ecstatic cheers from the packed late afternoon audience. Clad in the rainbows and stars that adorn the “Voyager” cover art, Lewis journeyed effortlessly from the alt-folk of “Rise Up With Fists!!” to the carousing rock of “The Moneymaker” to the swirly psychedelic ecstasy of “Love U Forever.” She was an indie Swiss Army knife.
As is her custom, Lewis played the set like she was gunning for a Tony Award, employing her carefully perfected cool in carefully perfected moments for carefully perfected crowd response. A wry smile on “the (expletive) got real” in “Head Underwater,” a derisive head shake toward a “cocktail waitress who thinks she’s an artist” on “The Next Messiah,” plucking a yellow rose from the top of her keys to throw to the audience — Lewis knew how to play every scene.
A heavenly “Acid Tongue” to close the set was a hit, but the emotional high point of the show came from a well-loved Rilo Kiley track, “A Better Son/Daughter.” With a low simmering start that bordered on whispering, she launched into the song’s famous catharsis with an enthusiasm matched only by the Jenny Lewis Fan Club assembled in front of her.
About that rose mentioned earlier: How that bloom didn’t get thrown right back at Lewis, immediately followed by a shower of the same, is a mystery.