Love Me Once, Love Me Twice

By Madeleine ConnorsDecember 13, 2023

Love Me Once, Love Me Twice
JENNY LEWIS: JOY’ALL BALL TOUR, Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, December 8, 2023.

The soap dispenser in the women’s bathroom was malfunctioning at the Jenny Lewis concert at the Palladium. It was an automatic dispenser. “I miss when we could dispense our own soap,” one woman muttered. The crowd in the Palladium comprised mostly elder millennials, who—like this woman—miss so many things. The air in the venue seemed almost taut with nostalgia, which is fitting for Jenny Lewis, a singer and songwriter who has spent an entire career acutely articulating how nostalgia invites melancholy through music. The stage for her Joy’all Ball, adorned with a shimmering gold backdrop and a Christmas tree, seemed almost dreamlike, like a childhood rendering of Christmas morning—full of life and promise.

I have been a Jenny Lewis fan since I was a high school student. I have often wondered how history will remember millennial art, brimming with twee aesthetics and smug irony. Thankfully, Jenny Lewis is in a class of her own. She has had a storied career as the best performer that self-satisfied hipster music offers. She’s a haunting storyteller and a phenomenal musician. Her love songs have a depth and wisdom missing from modern pop music—although tirelessly imitated. As she took the stage in a moss-green-colored suit with an acoustic guitar, Lewis’s charm and enthusiasm were infectious. After one of her songs about a lover’s new girlfriend, Lewis joked, “Meaning, she’s chill. I’m not.” Of course, I was delighted to hear a singer admit that she’s difficult to love even when it seemed hard to believe. Who could not love Jenny Lewis? I thought after finishing my $22 margarita.

A few songs into her set, Lewis announced in front of a gold shimmering backdrop that the Joy’all Ball tour is about joy. In a world so cruel and unforgiving, this announcement almost felt radical in spite of being an earnest celebration of the Christmas spirit, free of irony. At multiple points throughout the show, she invited Santa onstage to dole out gifts to the audience, including a book on astral projection and a painting of apples that Lewis made herself. (This ritual was accompanied by her impossibly delightful explanation of each gift.) In the last stretch of the concert, giant balloons fell from the ceiling and bobbed around the crowd. The performance was so charming and captivating that all my cynicism about hipster-era music melted away.

With her all-female band, Lewis performed songs off her most recent album, Joy’all, and some well-worn classics like “See Fernando” and “Just One of the Guys.” It’s easy to appreciate the breadth of her catalog, spanning from gloomy love ballads to heady rock songs. Lewis has lived so many lives and had her heart broken in so many ways; we’re just lucky enough to bear witness through her songs. Her new album echoes country melodies and references classic Americana. Even her songs that I find slightly tedious are a feat of brilliant songwriting and performance. After all, despite the dainty and sentimental presentation, Lewis is still singing about dating sociopaths and existentialism deep into her forties.

As the concert ended and the crowd spilled out of the venue, a Christmas song was playing. I first fell in love with Lewis’s music because her specific brand of performative sadness and ennui resonated with me as a teenager. Now, several albums and years later, I’ve fallen in love with her again because of her daring quest to find joy while the world burns around her.


Photo by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Madeleine Connors is a stand-up comedian and writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in places like The New York Times, Bookforum, and Vanity Fair.


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