Tim's Dick Tastes Like Cherries: Rilo Kiley Live at the Abbey Pub, Chicago 1.26.04
by paul jaissle
Their 2002 album The Execution of All Things may have put them in the running for the Best Band In The World, but it is the Rilo Kiley live experience that easily clinches them the title. Having already seen their full-on rock show in both Chicago and Detroit, it didn't take too much to convince myself to see their acoustic tour when it passed within a 6-hour drive of my fair city. The prospect of seeing guitarist Blake Sennett and singer Jenny Lewis presenting their band's songs in an "unplugged" setting was just too much to resist: not even a long drive in a packed station wagon and three dollar beers at the club could ruin that experience.
Of course, even this show suffered at the hands of the bane of all rock concerts: the audience. Every time I've seen Rilo Kiley, the band has delivered the rock unto me like so very few ever have despite having to put up with some of the lamest crowds imaginable. So, while the rest of Rilo Kiley's Saddle Creek cohorts are either too busy starting all too similar sounding side-projects or doing photo-shoots for Rolling Stone, it may come to pass that they will become the "next big thing" and you'll probably find yourself in said crowd sooner than later. With this in mind, I offer these few tips on how one should conduct one's self if ever attending a Rilo Kiley concert:
-First off, don't talk during the opening band. That really should go without saying, but it still happens for some reason. Not only is it rude, but it may also cause you to miss something. Jake Bellows, who opened the show in Chicago, didn't really do much for me personally but it was a nice enough set of tender, acoustic-based pop tunes and certainly sounded better than the guys debating whether or not Neutral Milk Hotel was a Christian band behind me (they agreed it would be "cool" if Jeff magnum was making fun of god rather than actually loving Jesus Christ). Although, it would be hard to miss Tilly & the Wall even if you were talking. Close your eyes and imagine acoustic-guitar-fueled pop with cute female singers, one of whom tap-dances the drum parts while wearing an old prom dress. Got it? Well, it sounds better on paper than in reality. As much as I love bubble-gum pop and cute girls, there was something too gimmicky about the whole thing. It was fun watching the whole affair, but I can't imagine it translating too well to an album. But whatever, their cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" did rock pretty hard, and they did play suitcases, so it wasn't a total let down.
-When Rilo Kiley do take the stage, continue with not talking. For example, don't ask Jenny to marry you. Jenny Lewis is indeed an attractive and talented young woman, but that doesn't mean she is accepting proposals from drunken strangers. Also, I'm pretty sure she doesn't care it's your birthday either, so when she says she explains she shares a birthday with David Bowie before playing a fantastic version of "Rock and Roll Suicide," don't take it as an invitation to yell out that you turned 21 today.
-Of course, the biggest sin possible at a rock concert is yelling out songs titles during the show. Don't do it. Just don't. They have a set list, and I doubt they are taking requests so how about letting them play what they want? The songs they decided to play without audience suggestions were just fine: including "A Better Son/Daughter" which maintained its venom even in this stripped-down setting. Obviously they stuck to the simpler songs of Takeoffs And Landings, since those songs lent themselves to acoustic presentation better, although their encore of "Spectacular Views" with Blake taking over lead vocal duties was quite a nice surprise. And If Jenny and Blake want to play a few songs that they recorded for the next Rilo Kiley album, let them; especially if it's the fantastic "Somebody Else's Clothes" or the bittersweet "Jim" both of which sounded great in the acoustic setting, and will probably be even better given the full band treatment. Of course, you should know what songs they are playing and therefore have no need to shout or yell "woooo!" when they hit the chorus because you couldn't figure out that they were going to play "With Arms Outstretched" when Jenny said that the next song was a sing-a-long.
-And finally, when they play a cover song, don't whisper the original artist to your friend if you are standing behind me. Though, I have to admit it was pretty funny hearing the guy behind me loudly whisper "ELLIOTT SMITH" after Blake explains the next song is a cover they started playing after learning its writer died and then playing a jaw-dropping cover of Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible." (Seriously, bootlegs of these shows do exist, and it would behoove you to find that song, and if it doesn't become a live staple or b-side, there is no justice in the world.)
I can only imagine just how much better the show in Chicago would have been if the people there had know of these simple guidelines before going. Of course, that would leave me with nothing to bitch about which would be disastrous since I am a shallow, pathetic human being who only means of validation is belittling others for their minor flaws. But that's another article altogether.
Anyway, Rilo Kiley deserve your attention and your money, so next time they are in your neck of the woods please go see them.
Thank you to Jake Bellows, whose quick wit inspired this piece's title.