To celebrate her latest album On the Line, Warner Records turned Los Angeles’ historic Village Studios into a Jenny Lewis shrine on Tuesday night.
In a hazy pink room labeled “Red Bull & Hennessy,” guests enjoyed cocktails and snacks at tables adorned with bubblegum-colored telephones and tarot cards depicting each track on the album. It was a runaway cowgirl’s '80s prom daydream, complete with balloons and mini-figurines of Lewis atop a horse.
Lewis and her full band then performed five songs from the project in the building’s masonic auditorium, including visits from several special guests.
Below, find five highlights from the event.
Fred Armisen Plays Host
Though the audience was expecting Lewis to be the first to walk onstage, it was a pleasant surprise when comedian Fred Armisen came out instead. He gave a short introduction, adding in his signature humor along the way: “On the Line was a Billboard No. 1 vinyl album and No. 1 in Fred’s car,” Armisen said. He then passed the mic to former Warner Records president Lenny Waronker, who talked of his first time listening to the album. “About halfway through the record, I stopped and said, 'Jesus, this is important,’” Waronker said. “There's an enormous amount of emotion in the record and a very powerful person who put this thing together.”
A Legendary Lineup
Lewis made quite an entrance in a floor-length sparkly pink dress, accompanied by the acclaimed band with whome she recorded On the Line: iconic session drummer Jim Keltner, Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on keys, Jason Falkner on guitar and Don Was playing bass. Back to back to back, they effortlessly played “Heads Gonna Roll,” “Wasted Youth” and “Red Bull & Hennessy.” Lewis’ lilting vibrato live was akin to that of Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, and her chemistry with the band was electric.
Talking Starr & Smith
During a short intermission, Armisen returned to briefly interview Lewis and her band. After revealing how much of a fan he is of Keltner, Armisen shifted the conversation to none other than Ringo Starr, who played drums on a few of the project’s tracks. This, of course, gave way to Armisen’s hilarious impression of the former Beatle, confessing that Starr had once admitted to him that he doesn’t eat lunch. Back on track, Armisen asked Lewis about a particular lyric on “Heads Gonna Roll": “And we disagreed about everything/ From Elliott Smith to Grenadine.” A bittersweet topic since Aug. 6 would have been Smith’s 50th birthday, Lewis enthused that the lyric was inspired by true events in which she had to “fight for the merits of Elliott Smith… and I also enjoy grenadine.”
Keltner Gushes Over Lewis
Asked by an audience member the significance of On the Line to him, drummer Keltner gave a surprisingly sentimental response. “[Lewis'] pitch is beautiful – not perfect, but beautiful. It's as perfect as you'd want it to be. And then our good buddy who we can't talk about I guess,” Keltner said, referring to Ryan Adams, who contributed to the album before allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced surrounding him in February. Nevertheless, Keltner continued to rave about Lewis: “It's just a fantastic honor to play with someone so brilliant. I hate to be gushy like that but it's just the truth.”
Bringing Out Beck
To top off the night, alt rock tastemaker Beck made an appearance to perform “Little White Dove” and “Rabbit Hole” alongside Lewis. Though he later confessed to the crowd that he had just stepped off a plane, it didn’t seem to phase him. “I think that might be better than the record version right there,” Beck said after their rendition of “Little White Dove.”
Beck was right: Though the audience only got a sampling of On the Line live, those five songs sounded just as good as they did on the record — if not better.
Jenny Lewis’ Village Studios set list
Heads Gonna Roll
Red Bull & Hennessy
Little White Dove