My second time at Union Stage was just as amazing as the first. In February I caught instrumental post-rock band El Ten Eleven. The venue is located on The Wharf, down a little bit of an alley. The music venue is underground in a super nice intimate space (450 person capacity).
Before the show I spotted many cool t-shirts around the room: Paul Westerberg, Blake Babies and Sub Pop. I even met a girl named after Juliana. My favorite experiences are often talking to new people at shows.
Hatfield arrived on stage dubbing her backing band as the Juliana Hatfield Three minus one plus two. Juliana Hatfield Three bassist Dean Fisher was in the lineup.
On stage in a dazzling floral bodysuit and armed with a pink first act guitar she was ready to deliver her blend of poppy alternative rock. The set began with two songs from 2017’s “Pussycat” album: “Wonder Why” and “Everything is Forgiven”. Five songs in total were played from that album, the most from any album during the show.
Next was one of my forgotten favorite songs: “Everybody Loves Me But You”. Upbeat, catchy and irresistibly indie. The song is from Hatfield’s first solo album “Hey Babe” and features Evan Dando of The Lemonheads on the track. The Lemonheads were one of my favorite bands as a teenager and of course Juliana played bass and sang on the seminal “It’s a Shame About Ray” album which used to be my favorite of all time (I’ll save that long and mildly disappointing Evan Dando story for another time).
The band was energetic, booming and on beat. Hatfield displayed power moves on stage, slayed guitar solos and sang incredibly with her powerful yet occasionally subtle vocal range.
“Parking Lots” from the Juliana Hatfield Three’s comeback album was performed and transitioned straight into “If I wanted Trouble”, A Minor Alps song (Juliana’s project with Matthew Caws from Nada Surf).
Not even mid-way through the set Hatfield’s most well-known and successful song “My Sister” was played. The move proved that if you’re a truly great songwriter you don’t need to give in to the age old tale of a band playing their “biggest song” as the encore. The crowd responded with thunderous applause.
“I don’t need you to make noise, I’m fine with the quiet” Hatfield joked wittingly.
A selection of songs (“Lost Ship” and “Broken Doll”) from the newest album “Weird” were next. The songs were followed by two more tracks from “Pussycat”: “When You’re A Star” and “Rhinoceros”. The tone shifted to a gloomy vibe during this part of the set and definitely had the crowd reminiscing on 90s angst through the moody songs.
A fun part of the night was when we got to hear the Olivia Newton John covers “Suspended in Time” and “Physical”. “Suspended in Time” contained my favorite signing performance of the night as every note was so emotionally executed. “Physical” was fun and had the crowd dancing and bouncing.
Seemingly a bit worn out, Hatfield remarked how she sometimes forgets where she is on tour when at places where there’s no discernible familiarities. The crowd related verbally.
“Touch You Again” from Pussycat has become my new favorite song after hearing it live. The interesting thing about seeing an artist who doesn’t play all the songs you’re familiar with is discovering new songs you enjoy by them.
There’s always that guy that comes in late and requests the artist’s most familiar song. This time the guy just made things awkward since the song was already played. Hatfield quipped “I could play that song twice, but I don’t really feel like it.”
“Feelin’ Massachusetts” and “Backseat” nearly wrapped things up. The set ended on the rarity “Christmas Cactus” which was only ever available as a free download on Hatfield’s website. The tender song full of heartbreak truly shined.
Hatfield had maintained a certain awkwardness/shyness throughout the night. She briefly mentioned she was under the weather which explained it. She was a bit congested and was coughing in between songs but she sounded amazing and soldiered through.
Hatfield came out solo for the encore and ended on the devastating yet depressingly addictive “Choose Drugs”. The song ended the night on a somber note, especially seeing how tired Hatfield must have been from being sick, but you could tell she was super grateful for the fans that came out and nothing was going to stop her from playing.