Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins at The Masonic, by Joshua Huver
Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins (photo: Joshua Huver)

If there was any doubt who the queen of indie music is, Jenny Lewis erased any competition with her extravagant return to San Francisco at The Masonic on Thursday, September 22.

Jenny had the audience in the palm of her hand, and at this point in the tour, the final show of an album from ten years ago, she knew exactly how to direct the evening. From synchronized show-dancing between herself and The Watson Twins to multiple costume changes that reinforced Lewis’ overarching theme of rainbows, happiness, and love that borders on twee, Lewis’ extravagant personality was front and center.

Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins at The Masonic, by Joshua Huver

The conclusion of a string of anniversary dates to celebrate 10 years of her 2006 breakthrough solo record Rabbit Fur Coat, Lewis teamed up with The Watson Twins Chandra and Leigh once more an featured one of the biggest sleeper-surprises of the year: a solo opening set from Death Cab For Cutie‘s Ben Gibbard. The announcement was teased in the few days leading up to the show and formally announced via a special playbill outlining the three sets of music planned for the evening.

Gibbard delivered a loaded nine-song set list that spanned the last five years of his projects in and out of Death Cab, including tracks like “St. Peter’s Cathedral” and “Black Sun.” He also played “Williamine,” a song penned with Jay Farrar and reached back in time to close the set with one of his band’s most well-known and widely received songs, “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.”

The lights went down for Lewis’ first set just after 9pm. Languidly, she and The Watson Twins strolled out from stage left, holding candles and singing a low harmony before launching into Rabbit Fur Coat from start to finish. In between every lull or empty downbeat, a fan would scream in sheer ecstasy. Men, women, and even children could not contain their desire to tell Lewis how much they loved her, and that need did not seem to subside for anyone throughout the entire show. But again, it was only during lulls or outright silence. When the songs were being played, the crowd was full of intently listening shushers.

A half hour into Rabbit Fur Coat, between the end of “Melt Your Heart” and the beginning of the title track, The Watson Twins and Jenny had left the stage, leaving the backing band to keep jamming for a few minutes, to the audience’s delight. It was incredibly reassuring to see that the same level of appreciation was given to the backing band, which featured guitarist Megan McCormick and multi-instrumentalist virtuoso Mike Bloom, as well as Josh Adams on drums and Mason Taylor on bass guitar.

Eventually everyone had left the stage and Lewis returned and began the title track. By the end of it, the entire band had returned and Lewis was hanging on the final lyrical sentiment, “what will I get?” Leaning over and putting her hand to her ear, as if she were directly asking the audience. The answer, of course, is rowdy round of applause. Lewis drank it up, and used the momentum to officially welcome Gibbard back to the stage to assist on The Traveling Wilburys‘ “Handle With Care.” Check out a video of the tune below:

Lewis moved to the piano for the next tune “Born Secular,” which also ended with the band rocking out on their own. This time each member departed one by one until only Adams was left drumming, and he continued drumming until they cut his mics, prompting the descriptor “The Tasteful Josh Adams” from Lewis’ band intros at the end of the evening. The set closed with a crowd clap along to the reprise of “Happy” that closes the album, and the second intermission of the evening began 53 minutes after the set started.

With the middle set of the evening being solely dedicated to Rabbit Fur Coat, the closing set was billed as “a voayage through the past, present, and future.” The 13-song set opened with a costume change that saw Lewis in a tailored white suit adorned with a rainbow of ganja leaves lining each side. Lewis wasted no time getting into the music, opening the set with the first track on 2014’s The Voayager “Head Underwater.”

Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins at The Masonic, by Joshua Huver

Lewis moved from the piano to her rainbow-and-star patterned acoustic guitar for “Just One Of The Guys” before addressing the crowd for the first time with some real, appreciatve banter.

“What’s up San Francisco? It’s good to be back. I’m not anti-birthday, but it’s great to be playing Rabbit Fur Coat. I remember when I first met The Watson Twins I was too afraid to play my songs!” Lewis admitted. “Their vibe and energy was unimaginably helpful though. And thank you to Ben, my dear friend, a solid person in my life. When I made Rabbit Fur Coat I remember hanging out with him driving around Seattle listening to it in his car — a couch on wheels is what it was, really — but he was so supportive and present.”

She took the opportunity to introduce a new song, “a love song” Lewis called “Red Bull and Hennessy.” Many people in the crowd were hoping to see Gibbard return to the stage, having been formally thanked, but he stayed in the audience. The Watson Twins left the stage and only the core band remained backing up Lewis on the new tune. Check it out here:

The Watson Twins returned for the first song off of 2008’s Acid Tongue: “See Fernando” which featured a hard-hitting and driving melody accentuated by Lewis and the twins’ synchronized dance moves until it was only the three singers on stage and they went into an a capella take on The Shirelles’ “I Met Him On A Sunday.” The crowd clapped along in time and loved every second as the high level of energy carried over despite a lack of plugged in instruments.

“Buckle up your seat belts,” Lewis said to the audience, cuing up the title track to The Voayager. “We’re about to go to outer space and I’m your tour guide.” Following “The Voyager” Lewis reached even deeper into her past arsenal and broke out “I Never” from her days with Rilo Kiley.

Flash forward to earlier this year, and Lewis waxed poetic on the meaning behind her next song. “Door,” a song about finding peace and love in yourself, is part of her three-piece group for social action known as Nice As Fuck. Ahead of the final song of the evening, “She’s Not Me,” Lewis dedicated the tune to Jennifer Aniston. In the last moments of the song, Lewis took a stroll around the stage to introduce her bandmates and giving them an opportunity to show off before the end of the song, and the show, ending just before 11pm.

The fans in the audience were clamoring for an encore, but true to her faux diva appearance, she didn’t.