By: Kevin Rolfe
Have you ever been to a concert that you really enjoyed and thought, “You know, I really wish I could see this show again really soon!”? But you know that in most cases it’ll be up to a year and most likely longer until that artist returns to your city. It doesn’t happen often, but this year we were fortunate to have Jenny Lewis bring her On The Line Tour through Utah twice in the last two months. Jenny Lewis gave a rousing performance at The Commonwealth Room on May 18 then returned to Utah but this time up in Park City as part of the Deer Valley Concert Series at Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater on July 11. Same tour, same artist, two very different shows.
I don’t want to do too much comparing and contrasting of the two shows but there were some major differences between these concerts that I’d like to point out. The Commonwealth Room is a small indoor venue while the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater tells you right in its name where the venue is located. Inside The Commonwealth Room people were jam-packed and the energy was bouncing off of the walls. At the Deer Valley show, you can spread out, bring food, lay on a blanket and enjoy a concert in a much different way. So the energy at this show was much more relaxed than the one in May. There were similar songs in the setlist, but Jenny definitely mixed it up which was nice for those of us who were at both shows. I’d imagine she thought of that going into the Deer Valley concert.
I found this concert so interesting because in many ways it was perfect while in other ways, there were some things that could have been better. Jenny herself was perfect. She sounded amazing! As I walked through the crowd taking pictures I could hear people commenting on how good she sounded. Her vocals were totally dialed in and she seemed in great spirits as she mugged and joked with the crowd. I welcomed the cool weather up in Deer Valley as the temperatures begin to rise down in Salt Lake. I noticed many bundled up in blankets sweatshirts and some with beanies. By the end of the night, we temperatures were in the 60’s. I loved it. It felt so good! There isn’t a digital screen in the world that can produce a graphic as beautiful as the sun setting behind the shell of the stage. As the evening went along, the wind picked up a little. So much so that many of the balloons that Lewis released towards the end of the show flew off into the night rather than being bounced around the crowd as intended. But I have to give it to the folks running the sound. Many times if an outdoor show is windy, the sound can be lost whenever there is a gust. But that was never the case at this concert. I thought the sound was really well managed.
If I was going to give any kind of critique on the evening it would be the layout of the amphitheater for this particular show. The amphitheater is set up on a hill that is literally a ski slope in the winter. I’d say about a thousand chairs are set up in the front center of the venue in what I’d call the premium section. The view and the sound is perfect there. In front of those seats is an open general admission area. While the show was very well attended, this was not a sold-out show. Therefore the front GA section had some elbow room in it. Once Lewis walked out, those in that section moved up to the front of the stage. This left a huge gap between the seated section and the general admission. It didn’t seem to phase Jenny, but I’d imagine it would be a little difficult to perform to a couple hundred people right in front of you and then a couple thousand twenty feet behind them. As I said, I’m sure this was only because it wasn’t a sell-out. With Michael Franti a couple of weeks back this was not an aesthetic issue at all. I suppose there isn’t a way to fix this, but I’d hope if there was another show set up like this that didn’t sell out maybe chairs could be moved closer to the stage.
You know you have a good album when people are excited to hear those songs in a concert. I love On the Line so whenever Lewis sang one of those songs I was really into it. And it seemed like the majority of the crowd was right along with me. “Heads Gonna Roll” is a personal favorite and a perfect song to open the show. Jenny sat behind her upright piano and looked out over the audience. I’d like to think that she’s figuring out what this audience is going to be like and what her strategy will be with this audience. Of course, she sang plenty of crowd favorites like “She’s Not Me” and “Just One of the Guys”.
It’s almost impossible to take your eyes off of Jenny Lewis. Her sequin jumpsuit and bouffant hair alone will draw you in. But I did peel my eyes away long enough to notice her band. They are so talented and having seen them a couple months ago it felt like having old friends back in town. The real reason to watch Lewis is she just looks like she’s having so much fun up there. Some women told me that watching her reminded them of being in their rooms as girls and singing into their hairbrush. To them, Jenny Lewis looked like that young girl who wanted to be a star and became one. And is Jenny Lewis ever a star!
Now that Jenny Lewis has been here twice in 2019 I’m afraid it might be a while before she returns. I hope that’s not the case because she puts on a really entertaining show.
If you haven’t seen a show at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater in Deer Valley you’re really missing out. The Deer Valley Concert Series has a great lineup for the rest of the summer. The next show up is Lukas Nelson & the Promise of Real. Click here for tickets!