june 2004 - the diary

Sunday 20th

9 hours - that's the time difference between Denmark and California. Having arrived here in San Francisco only yesterday the jet lag is still a bit of an issue this evening when I arrive at the Cafe du Nord on Market Street. Just had a nice dinner with my friend Mark and his wife Andrea on a nearby restaurant and Mark has joined me for tonight's show. To make everything even more of a deja vu of last years Evan Dando event we immediately bump into Leeanne sitting at the bar! Pretty soon openers the Damnwells find the stage and start playing in front of a small audience. It's all very relaxed - the stuff they play is sufficiently simple that you can enjoy it even the first time you hear it and they seem to be pretty skilled musicians. Can't help wanting them to be a bit less predictable though.

Talking about predictability it's interesting to consider how much of the surprise factor the internet has taken out of shows like this. Today I know exactly who'll be in Juliana's band, I have a very good idea about what the set list might look like and I've even had the opportunity of listening to a recording of their first show at TT's back in January! In fact listening to that recording lowered my expectations for tonight quite a bit, since much of it is a bit of a mess. My overall reaction to IED has also been a bit mixed. Yes she's still showing off those great song writing skills and the guitar work ain't bad either but he studio musicians sound rather uninspired and I do find many of the songs a bit shallow compared to previous masterpieces.Taking all this into account I'm not expecting a fantastic show but I'm still pretty optimistic since many of the IED songs would seem to be great live material.

Just a few bars into the first song - Jamie's In Town - the full band kicks in and I immediately forget any worries I might have had about their abilities - they seem really solid at this stage of the tour. The first part of the set carries on with a mixture of IED and Some Girls stuff plus the ubiquitous Somebody Is Waiting For Me. I consider the latter one of her least interesting songs ever so I guess it'll always be a mystery to me why she keeps playing it so much. We get a short version of Dirty Dog without any added animal sounds (which is a plus) but sadly also without the ending ad lib part that makes it just a little bit interesting on the record.

I'm starting to wonder what's going on with the bass player - Ed Valauskas - since I've noticed that in a very unorthodox style he's been fretting the strings with his thumb only. Is he some kind of autodidact? When Juliana starts introducing the band I get the explanation - turns out he's suffering from a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome, so this is the only way he can reduce the pain! At this point someone in the audience shouts out the question "Where's Freda" and Ed quickly handles this rather stupid remark by giving the not so obvious answer "She's in my thumb!" !

I guess that no matter what there'll always be someone in the audience who is clueless enough to do things like requesting My Sister at a Blake Babies show or wanting Some Girls members to appear at a Juliana event. So this doesn't stop her introducing the actual drummer - Pete Caldes, who's really been a positive surprise compared with the TT's recording. Apparently in a chatty mode Juliana carries on with telling us about how she got hit in the head with a log the other day and has been feeling a bit dizzy ever since. Joe does try to straighten things up a bit mentioning chip board and hinges but she insists on calling it a log - a flat log though ;)

They carry on with a splendid version of What a Life followed by the oldie of the night Mabel. Although I'm not really the nostalgic type I can't deny that hearing those 2 songs live for the first time has to be one of the highlights of the show. Getting a straight version of Get in Line without the cheesy keyboards of the IED version is also really nice.

After The Prettiest Girl Juliana insists on redoing one of the guitar parts that she happened to mess up - and of course she manages to mess it up again in a slightly different way. Luckily she can pull out the "hit my head the other day" excuse (very much tongue in cheek of course!). On a whole her guitar playing seems really impressive though. She's taking care of all the solo's and she does it with a lot of confidence. Her rhythm parts are also very very solid. The other guitarist - Joe Keefe - does a nice job too but his playing is more of a background thing - a bit anonymous but not bad at all.

During the next song which is Your Eyes Juliana does start to struggle with the vocals but seems to come back on track during the less demanding (and mandatory) My Sister that follows. The very straight forward Sunshine runs by smoothly while Universal Heart Beat gives rise to a few more struggles. My Enemy is by far my favorite IED song but I've been kind of curious whether it can work without the keyboards which are such a dominant factor on the recorded version. Not only does it hold up - it's simply stunning, and turns into a beautiful emotional ending to the regular set.

A solo electric Tomorrow Never Comes is what we get for an encore. I really loved this song when I first heard it on the autumn 2000 tour - at that time she played it with the band and I'd still favor that version but no matter what, it makes up a nice ending to what I'd call a really good show. I still think that things could get better but this only makes me anticipate the remaining 2 shows so much more!


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