Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis traded indie-rock for alt-country when she skiffled onto the stage at New York’s Town Hall last night. Joined by oddball collaborators the Watson Twins, she treated fans to a unique hodgepodge of country variety show gentility and heel-stomping rock & roll. Scheduled openers the Little Willies, Norah Jones’ countrified side-project, didn’t show — allegedly a “family issue” prevented them from playing — so the college-aged crowd got to enjoy the main event earlier than expected. Just after nine, Lewis and the Twins took to the stage with a four-piece band dressed in black-tie regalia. The buzz of rabid-fan chatter died down the second Lewis’s candied country croon began an a cappella rendition of “Run Devil Run.” From then on, the club was quiet as a tomb, allowing Lewis and Co. to sweep through pretty much every tune from 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat (including a goose-bump-inducing rendition of the harmonic “Melt Your Heart.”)
About halfway through, Lewis and the Twins left the stage for a costume change, returning in sparkly, translucent mini-dresses for a decidedly amped-up Act Two. By the time the band had finished the strutting blues rarity, “Jack Killed Mom” and the Bo Didley-tinged “Fernando,” the lap-steel guitar was in danger of bursting into flames.
For the encore, Lewis appeared solo for the hauntingly stark title track from Rabbit, before summoning the band on stage with a whistle for a feel good cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s twangy “Handle with Care.” It was a fitting end to a real rock hootenany, New York-style.