JulianaHatfield, October 17, 1998, Fitzgeralds, Houston
This is my third time seeing Juliana live, second in less than a year at Fitzgeralds (see that review). The first thing to note is that this is theway to see a band. Right up front/center, maybe three people deep, during the show,my friend commented that small venues like Fitzgeralds really spoil us for the large showsat places like the Woodlands. I love being up close, watching the guitar techniquesand really getting a fell for what is going on onstage. Before the show, I checkedout the crowd. The entire first row flanking the stage was more or less estrogenfree. But, it was the motliest crew of men I had ever seen assembled in one place. You had the hairy, the shirtless, and the prepubescent all hoping for that fleetingmoment of eye contact. Realizing that this was what Juliana had to look forward tofor the next 2 hours, for the first time, I did not envy being a rock star.
So forget the crowd, forget that the shirtless guy kept trying to crowd surf only to bedropped to the cement in a nano-second, forget that Juliana threatened his life if hekicked her, forget that it was hot as hell, this was a great show. Juliana Hatfieldcontinues, even at 30, to be a waifish, childlike young woman who can rock hard. Shewrites and sings songs of complex relationships within the context of melodic pop hooksthat tend to stay with you. Probably the most popular tunes of the evening were"My Sister" (even though she doesn't have one) and "Spin the Bottle." Her newest CD, the just released Bed, has received critical acclaim. While I don't have it yet, I plan to run right out and get it. What I heardduring the show and with the research I've done on the lyrics, it proves to be an angryyet poignant interpretation of the struggle of men and women, fitting in, getting pissedoff... It's the usual things, but it seems that Juliana has had her share of despair. When in "Bad Day" Juliana says "I think I understand what makes aboy a bad man" you tend to believe her. She opened with "You are theCamera" revealing the need to have acceptance reflected in another person. Youcan't get any more direct than "You are the camera, a reason for living. I need youto need me. I need you to justify my life."
Juliana first broke onto the Boston music scene in the late 80s with the Blake Babies. This band showcased the childlike vocals in what was, at that time, an emergentalternative sound. Juliana dished up one tune from the Blake Babies Sunburn, "Girlin a Box" where she cleverly works in the rhyme "dirty little whore" and"girl next door". The absolute highlight of the evening for me was thefirst song during the encore had Juliana onstage for a solo of "Ugly" (with acapital U) from her first solo CD "Hey Babe", the only representation from thatperiod. I call it "pulling a Juliana Hatfield" when an artist doesn't playtheir big hit, which Juliana did again by ignoring not only "Everybody Loves Me ButYou", but also "I See You" and "Universal Heartbeat". Iguess she just wants to move forward.
During the set, she added a song that I hadn't heard and could not track down (perhapson the unreleased God's Foot CD) called "Why Does Baby Get So High?". Juliana Hatfield is a great talent that has seemingly, purposely avoided allthe attention currently being given to female rockers ala Lilith, choosing instead to doit her way. She puts out music on her own terms, plays the small club circuit, andsomehow manages to move from label to label that keeps up her tour support. When thealternative is "making it" to the point of playing the huge venues, maybeJuliana's got the right idea, at least from a musical integrity standpoint. I startto envy being a rock star once again...
On That Note, I'm outta here......
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