As collaborators go, Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis is the Junior High crush. She flicks, flirts and dances with the popular older boys, (Conor Oberst, James Valentine, Ben Gibbard, Elvis Costello) but eventually ends up dating her lab partner.

So Chosen is Johnathan Rice, the Scottish-born 27-year-old full-lipped muse who encountered the First Lady of indierock in '06 when he joined Lewis' touring band in support of her debut solo effort, Rabbit Fur Coat.

After parting ways for his second solo project, Further North, Rice and Lewis reunited on the road during her '08-'09 tour where, as the story on the sleeve says, the seeds of their relationship, professional and personal, were sewn.

The result, I'm Having Fun Now, the most pretty album of late summer ...from the indie-pop boy/girl band which makes you forget about the other actress-fronted duos She and Him and whatever it is Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson do.

For 34-year-old Lewis, performing with her significant other is in the blood; her parents had a Vegas lounge act called Love's Way and the Lewis/Rice stage presence is lived in like spilled coffee and paper in bed on a Sunday.

Surprised (and a bit suspicious) then as Lewis touted Wednesday's stop the act's "fifth ever"; up close is a couple that's been touring and dating on and off for a half decade.

There are some lived-in lines and glances (deliberate and non-) on both faces revealing a relationship between two highly functioning talents ages in dog years.

There are equal doses of sarcasm, fallen tree branches, missed calls and meals spent alone on the album's eleven tracks; it's not simply shoegazer/backing track revisited nor is it the countrified post-rock Lewis herself helped create and kill.

Heavy on guitars and light on the irony (though it's there, always), the album's fate rests in the hands of a too-contemplative couple; the relationship we'd all like to have if jobs and money and travel and time were supplanted with the in-your-faceness of tour bus bathrooms - a half-dozen of the album's tracks belonging on someone's tribute playlist to the right person at the wrong time.

Fitting that two perfect beings who exchange discord about the imperfection of waking life were forced to perform their first non-sold-out show ever at the State Room Wednesday after a pair of oversold nights at the Great American Music Hall in SF - 700 miles away from a den of adulation by the Bay - not quite knowing how loud to play or what epithets to say in the shadow of a Temple.

The band and the tepid Salt Lake crowd found their way together during the witty opener "Scissor Runner" with a wine-sipping Lewis at the helm in Levi's cutoffs and a plain black T, revealing a sliver of midriff.

Rice, cementing his worth with a half grin from behind his bangs in jeans and a white T, was the first to break from scripted banter during the intro to "Slavedriver", one of the album's signature tracks rife with riff-and-harmony-filled pop flavor that goes well with cooking stir fry: "We all have friends. You look to the left and the right and you love the person, but sometimes you want to stab them in the neck."

(no reaction)

" least that's what Jenny told me to say."


To the consternation of fanboys, Lewis and her smoky whisper plays the supporting role on the album, which translates to the stage as audience eyes dart back and forth between the celestial Angelinos - never quite deciding who's the bigger crush.

Advantage Rice, who chopped it up with throngs of Utah blondes. "I have your lyrics tattooed on my arm," one squealed. "Oh good lord," his deadpan.

It was Lewis on turf unfamiliar as diminutive straightman: "Do you guys have straight-edge folks in Salt Lake. You know, like Minor Threat?" was, you know, the intro to "Straight Edge of the Blade".


A verbal spike from the e'er-engaged audience, two-thirds through the 70-minute set, conjured Lewis' involuntary but much-anticipated light-creeping-through-the-crack-beneath-the-door grin.

"We f---'n love you."

Lewis cupped her hand and whispered to her partner.

Rice cocked his eyebrows and switched guitars.

"This may be the best crowd ever," Lewis called. Sure she may say it every night, but Salt Lake hears it so little and so they cheered so loud.

Verily they were rewarded.

Lewis conjured a fresh glass of wine. Instead of calling it a night with "Big Wave" the album's legit pop showcase of Her voice (about California's burst bubble, no less), the duo encored with a rollicking (yes!) eight-minute "The Next Messiah" ("an older song about a Messianic Cult" - Lewis ...wink, wink Utah).

The lights dimmed and there was Rice with an acoustic guitar, Lewis unencumbered behind the mic, covering Nazareth's Love Hurts. Single tears streaking down the cheeks of the front-row faithful, assuring when it comes to Jenny and Johnny, it hurts so good.