Rilo Kiley

If it wasn’t quite a pop coronation, the final gig of Rilo Kiley’s Under the Blacklight tour nonetheless had the distinct air of triumph about it, and for good reason. While some pundits and fans have groused that Rilo Kiley’s recent, studio-burnished big label release somehow betrayed the band’s indie roots, guitarist Blake Sennett would argue that the move was in fact their artistic emancipation, a sensibility they gleefully indulged in an energetic, 95-plus minute set before a large, adoring hometown crowd that hung on their every word and gesture.

Much can—and has—been made of the relationship between Sennett and lead singer/fellow former child star Jenny Lewis, both of whom spent much of the show bouncing joyously from one corner of the stage to another. But the former lovers, band focal points, and tunesmiths turned even Blacklight’s “Breaking Up,” the autobiographical track that’s their only full songwriting collaboration on the album, into a full-blown celebration, with Lewis ringing out the news on cowbell.

But there’s more to those occasional Fleetwood Mac parallels than the romantic soap opera angle, as Sennett’s “Dreamworld” attested in a swirl of colored lights, washed by a wall of seamless, hypnotic harmonies. Bennett may claim the song was in fact inspired more by Byrne than Buckingham, but Rilo Kiley charges it with an urgent, yet deceptively effortless sense of pop perfection that’s clearly more in the Mac mold. Sennett’s infectious, ukulele-backed solo turn on the More Adventurous standout “Ripchord” only underscored the point.

Lewis’ smoldering looks and effervescent stage demeanor are a far cry from the riot grrrl pretensions of alt rock’s roots, yet they belie a lyrical edge and musical range that’s anything but clichéd. Whether indulging Sennett’s funk-fevered guitar flourishes on Blacklight’s skin trade-based radio hit “Moneymaker,” infusing the underage sex cautionary “15” with effusive dollops of blue-eyed soul, or handing off a verse/chorus of the country-tinged Execution of All Things anthem “With Arms Outstretched” to a crowd that was only too happy to oblige her, Lewis turned the night into a firm confirmation of her seemingly boundless potential.

San Diego trio Grand Ole Party opened the show with an energetic set whose powerful rhythmic groove-informed songs, tinged with tasteful doses of ska, pop, and new wave sensibility, attested to what attracted Sennett to produce the band’s Humanimals debut. Grand Ole Party singer/drummer Kristin Gundred’s riveting, Napolitano-informs-Stefani voice is as far as any cheap Karen Carpenter comparisons get. Middle-billed The Bird and the Bee managed to be variously evocative and obtuse, with frontwoman Inara George coaxing the band’s airy, Morricone/Bacharach ’70s jazz-pop shtick into realms that were often as precious as they were gravity-challenged.