Live Review: Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis Rock Out With Jello Biafra at The Masonic

Jenny Lewis and Ryan Adams share the stage.

Ryan Adams
With Jenny Lewis
Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Masonic

Ryan Adams and Jenny Lewis are thriving off of each other this year. After the rough break-up of her former band, Rilo Kiley, Lewis looked to Adams to produce her third solo album, The Voyager, which she recorded at his Pax Am studio in Los Angeles. The music video for the single “Just One of the Guys” featured her friends Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart, and received a million views in only 24 hours. Adams released his 12th solo album, on which he self-produced demos from his prodigious overflow of material. One of the tracks, “Gimme Something Good,” was recently Grammy nominated for “Best Rock Performance” and “Best Rock Song” while the s/t album itself was nominated for “Best Rock Album.” Like I said, it's been a good year for both of them. Really good.

[jump] Meanwhile, both are creeping towards middle-age with a tunnel-vision amount of grace and determination that denies a rock star's usual expiration date. Instead, they feed off of each other's creative energy, which we saw last night at the newly renovated and acoustically gorgeous-sounding Masonic. Right now they're wrapping up a short stint of December shows where Adams is headlining, and Lewis opens.

[For more on Lewis, see the music section of this week's paper.]

With no introduction, Adams was a part of Lewis' backing band during the entirety of her set. If you didn't already know that he looks like a tousled teenager who usually wears black t-shirts, you might have missed it. Keeping with The Voyager's album art, Lewis was compellingly powerful in her white suit with the rainbow design, commanding respect and whimsy in tandem. She sang “Acid Tongue,” off of her 2008 release, in harmony with her full band, with only her on acoustic guitar by way of instrumentals. The huge crowd-pleaser “Just One of the Guys” gave me chills with the identity-tilting line: “I'm just another lady without a baby,” the same as it does every time.
Cut to Ryan Adams' two-hour set, and finding out he likes to play near his favorite stuff. Really near to it: Onstage was the '80s arcade game Asteroids, as well as another I couldn't identify. Adams played in front of an American Peace Flag, and oddly, a fake tiger ready to pounce. Maybe its inclusion was in remembrance of his 2007 release Easy Tiger — I'm not sure, but it created a very strange living room effect.

The next two hours were filled with Adams' copious discography, punctuated by slow spacey jams and excited banter — “San Francisco is the best fucking city” and a side tangent recommendation of synth-punk band Suicide. He called Jenny Lewis back to sing a duet of “Oh My Sweet Carolina” off of Heartbreaker, and he also covered Lewis' “She's Not Me.” Every time he did anything Lewis-related, the audience adored him tenfold. And then, he pulled something that was, in his own words, “bad ass.”: He called Jello Biafra former lead vocalist of the Dead Kennedys, onstage. 

Biafra grabbed the mic, and together they covered Dead Kennedys' “Moon Over Marin,” with Biafra gesticulating like an underwater ballerina. It was surreal. Adams was giddy, and remember that tiger I mentioned? Well, Biafra finished by twirling the tiger in his arms and planting a celebratory kiss. All things considered, we were firsthand witnesses to a strange and beautiful explosion of alt-Americana and Bay Area punk.

Critic's Notebook:

— Ryan Adams is married to Mandy Moore, and refuses to watch A Walk To Remember. 

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