Jenny Lewis fucking killed it Tuesday night at Turner Hall. The former Rilo Kiley frontwoman and critically acclaimed solo artist put on a confident, defiant, and masterful show worthy of any arena-packing rock star working today. Drawing on the various stages of her career—including 2006’s terrific collaboration with The Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat—Lewis gave the packed ballroom a pitch-perfect and swagger-filled performance that felt both ridiculously outsized and remarkably intimate. The crowd couldn’t have been more adoring; Lewis handed out flowers to folks pressed against the stage several times throughout the night, though it wouldn’t have been surprising if it had been the other way around.

Walking out to some mysterious feedback (“Our foray into My Bloody Valentine and Jesus And Mary Chain territory,”) Lewis and her five-piece band took their places in front of a pastel-rainbow backdrop that recalled the video for “Just One Of The Guys.” (Also recalling that video: Lewis’ outfit and four audience members dressed in monochromatic tracksuits.) “Head Underwater,” the leadoff track from last year’s excellent The Voyager, opened the show, followed by latter-day Rilo Kiley favorite “Silver Lining.” Lewis would ping-pong between solo and old-band material for the rest of her set, touching on new songs like “She’s Not Me” and early ’00s classics like “A Better Son/Daughter.”

All throughout the night, Lewis radiated a cocksure superstar vibe that flew in the face of her place in the sometimes buttoned-down world of indie rock. She prowled the stage. She flashed a grin while singing the “lady without a baby” part of “Just One Of The Guys.” She frequently stood on a monitor and towered over the crowd. A delightful/disgusting story about seeing a dude pee in his own mouth preceded “Aloha & The Three Johns,” and two separate shout-outs to a soon-to-be-retired David Letterman were heartfelt and unexpected. The crowd, in turn, roared at every shimmy, shake, and sly joke Lewis tossed their way. (To its great detriment, the crowd seemed indifferent to the Letterman nods.)

It’s always hard to say whether an artist is actually glad to playing a particular show, but Lewis seemed to be legitimately enjoying herself. (Her last Milwaukee appearance was in 2008 with Rilo Kiley; she offered an “It’s good to be back!”) A short staircase located at the front of the stage—usually removed for shows, but kept intact Tuesday night by request—proved to be an unexpected focal point for the singer. “These stairs are a BFD,” Lewis said at one point, claiming their presence helped set the show apart from dozens of others on the tour. She even utilized them several times to briefly dip into the crowd. “Any opportunity to feel like Scarlett O’Hara,” Lewis said.

The musical highlights were plentiful. “The Next Messiah” was a sexy, gauntlet-thrown rave-up. “You Are What You Love” was chilled and relaxed. A cover of Cass McCombs “That’s That” was practically a show-stopper. New song “Girl On Girl” leaned heavily toward the unabashed pop of Rilo Kiley’s Under The Blacklight. Mid-way through the set, Lewis cheekily let the audience take the high notes on “With Arms Outstretched” before ending the song a cappella. Dozens of giant balloons dropped on the crowd during the set-ending one-two punch of “Love U Forever” and “A Better Son/Daughter,” and would stay there throughout the encore.

That encore ended with Lewis calling up opener Nikki Lane (and her band) to sing a rousing, arm-in-arm rendition of “Acid Tongue.” Before the song, Lewis admitted she had once “made out with a dude from Milwaukee,” which sent the diverse crowd into lascivious hysterics. But never mind that—as the lights came up, the most frequently heard sound from the crowd was simply one word: “Wow.”

SETLIST

Head Underwater
Silver Lining (Rilo Kiley)
Pretty Bird
The Moneymaker (Rilo Kiley)
Next Messiah
Come To The Rescue
Trying My Best To Love You
With Arms Outstretched (Rilo Kiley)
Just One Of The Guys
You Are What You Love
The New You
Aloha & The Three Johns
That’s That (Cass McCombs cover)
She’s Not Me
Love U Forever
A Better Son/Daughter (Rilo Kiley)

Encore

The Voyager
Girl On Girl (new song)
Portions For Foxes (Rilo Kiley)
Acid Tongue