Hot damn, is there anyone who makes it look easier than Jenny Lewis? Or at least, is there anyone who makes it look easy in so many different ways?
The indie-rock superwoman makes Austin home every time she swings through, whether it’s ACL Live or Gruene Hall or Austin City Limits Music Festival. She hit up that last one Friday for a sunset gig on Weekend One, her first time back to Zilker Park since she was touring 2014’s “The Voyager,” a nu-classic rock album that gave off a secondhand Cali glow while palo santo burns in the corner. Sometimes she's Laurel Canyon, sometimes she's country whiskey, sometimes she's 2000s breakup pop. They can't get a hit on ya if you keep changing up the pitch.
This time, Lewis pulled her wagon into town with new album “On the Line,” a love hangover of an LP with few fist-pumpers and a hell of a lot of smoldering passions. She’s traded rainbow dip-dyed Fort Lonesome suits for dusty rose garments that fit like sparkling skins on this tour. At ACL Fest, her strawberry Champagne jumpsuit — lined with fur at the wrists, as you must — and oversized pink sunglasses conspired with her bouffant to create the most convincing spiritual successor to Elton John this side of Lady Bird Lake.
The look was Elton, but the vibe was Loretta. With flicks of the wrist and puma struts, the VRBO stage became Jenny Lewis’ dive-bar residency. If you inhaled sharply, you’d get a little sawdust.
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“They warn you about killers and thieves in night. I worry about cancer and livin' right,” she sang on “Happy,” “but my mama never warned me about my own destructive appetite. Big Patsy Cline energy.
She cycled through plenty of “On the Line,” which fittingly gave the set a slower, thoughtful vibe. The song “Party Clown” name-checks Austin right at the beginning. Lewis gave us a piece of the origin story: The song takes place at South by Southwest in 2016. She waved a finger with a little stank face on “Wasted Youth” and ended the song with a sip from her baby-blue chalice. “Red Bull & Hennessy,” as on the album, was a jolt of wired insomnia.
Of course, the lady with a couple decades of fan-favorite tunes brought the stuff you sway along to with a half-empty Coors in your hand. “Just One of the Guys,” as usual, was a karaoke highlight, you could feel everyone fist-pumping and pretending they were punching through drywall on “She’s Not Me.” We won’t talk about the reggae rendition of “The Voyager,” but we’ll definitely point out that Rilo Kiley standard “Silver Lining” got hearts pumping a little faster.
On the subject of silver, the half-moon gave off a touch of sterling. It showed its face for “Little White Dove,” and Jenny released the cowbell while the stage crew released giant pink and blue balloons into the sea of fans.
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“I’ve met some of my favorite people here,” Lewis told the crowd of ACL Fest before closing the night with “I Never,” from Rilo Kiley album “More Adventurous.” “Keep your eyes wide.”
At Jenny Lewis’ sundown honky-tonk, that’s no problem. Can’t close your lids when the lady of the house keeps your eyes with her the whole night.