New York songwriter Laura Stevenson stood in front of a sold-out Boot and Saddle Monday night, offering up a set of contemplative, upbeat song which, she explained with a smile, were about clinical depression and spending too much time worrying about death. The soul-baring singer has a voice that reminds you at turns of Feist or Jewel. But better than that: her work avoids stumbling into the conventional pitfalls of tropey, trite pop-folk; normally she plays with a loud rock band; she took it solo acoustic tonight, commanding the full attention of a room filling quickly and quietly with Juliana Hatfield fans.
Shortly afterwards, Hatfield, Todd Phillips and Dean Fisher didn’t waste much time on fanfare. Hatfield seemed perhaps a bit overwhelmed with the intimate space, cramped to max-cap with politely smiling people, whom she acknowledged with a quick, buoyant “hey everyone!” and a wave, wedged between a distortion pedal check and their set’s opening salvo.
The band covered a lot of ground for one evening, noting early in her set that they’d try to touch on several eras from her storied thirty-year career. Though she mixed in so many fan-favorites like “My Sister” and “Nirvana” from the early ‘90s, she was sure to put some distance between then and now too. Tribute paid, and pigeonhole avoided.
“I’m not Lisa Loeb, by the way,” Hatfield quipped dryly and offhandedly between songs, as the crowd chuckled a little nervously, unbalanced and unsure whether to feel amused or antagonized. “I know this is a nostalgia tour for some people,” she continued, while fans offered from their heels several awkward and unvetted stabs at responses, as if to feel out the mood a bit more. “You’re better!” The singer didn’t bite on the discourse, but she did ease off a bit, from wherever it is she’d been heading. “Not that there’s anything wrong with Lisa Loeb,” she conceded. “I’m just not her.”
So. Don’t expect to sing along to “Spin The Bottle” tonight, folks.
The original lineup of the famed “Juliana Hatfield Three” aren’t being billed as such, as they tour expressly in support of her new solo record Pussycat. Hatfield hatched the entire album in a fit of inspiration, a response to last year’s presidential election taking just shy of two weeks and on which she contributes a near full-complement of vox and instruments by herself, supported only with drums by Pete Caldes.
The result is her most overtly political work to date, with songs like “Short-Fingered Man” and “Kellyanne,” and her band caught fire fastest at this show when they engaged that material. “I’m not trying to state the obvious,” Hatfield explained of her new songs, forging bonds with the attending like-minded. “I’m just trying to explore some complicated feelings that I think we all have. All we’re trying to do is just enjoy the confusion together.”
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