march 2006

Wednesday 8th & Thursday 9th

Back in Europe after an absence of - by her own account - something like 25 years! A short 7 gig tour passing through Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany before finishing up in great style with 2 consecutive shows at Bush Hall in London. I managed to refrain from doing the full road trip thing but of course I had to get on a plane for London to witness those final events.


The Venue

Bush Hall is not your typical small club - originally a dance hall built in 1904 it features high ceilings, chandeliers and elegant ornaments all over the place. You'd think that all the plaster works might be bad for the acoustics but no - the sound was really good.


The openers - Hilken Mancini & Chris Colbourn trio

On my tickets it says loud and clear: "This is a co-headline show" but who are they kidding? No one - including Mancini/Colbourn themselves were ever in doubt about exactly which co-headliner the audience had come to watch. On the first night it didn't really begin too promising. With Chris starting out saying that "we're going to play 10 songs cause that's all we know" and then Hilken really messing up the first couple of songs I couldn't help starting a count-down from 10. I've got their album and apart from a few Hilken songs I'm not too crazy about it. On stage they tried to make it a bit noisier but that experiment sort of turned weird. The second night however wasn't bad at all - they also joked about everything finally coming together at their last show.



And then - Juliana

Apart from a few encores here and there I'd never experienced Juliana as a solo artist before. Judging from what I had heard my expectations were high but she had no problem meeting them. Juliana and her guitar alone on stage really shows off both her skills as a musician and the superb quality of her songs.

In many ways it would be more accurate to describe what happened on those 2 days as one big show with a really large break between the 2 sets. Obviously Juliana had figured out that she would be playing for pretty much the same crowd both Wednesday and Thursday and accordingly she came up with 2 very different set lists. They both had a common core of some of the more recent stuff but in between that she sprinkled all sorts of rarities.

The set lists looked like this:


Stay Awake
Waiting for Heaven
Girl in a Box
Down on Me
Everybody loves me but Lou
Because We Love You
The Prettiest Girl
Malted Milk
Somebody is Waiting for Me
My Sister
Slow Motion
Let's Blow it All

Spin the Bottle

When You Loved Me
If I Could


My Sister
Bad Day
Robot City
Cry in the Dark
Somebody is Waiting for Me
Girl in a Box
Live on Tomorrow
Because We Love You
Choose Drugs
Ten Foot Pole
Hole in the Sky
I Got No Idols

Slow Motion


To avoid going on forever and ever I'll just mention what was the absolute highlights for me:

Outsider: Actually thought I knew how to play this but she proved me wrong. As was the case for many other songs too - even though she tends to describe herself as being a bit lazy when it comes to practicing the guitar it's striking to watch how many non-obvious and not so easy fingerings she comes up with on stage.

Let's Blow it All: Instant goose bumps really and then in the middle of the song she comes up with some totally awesome chords and vocals!

Raisans: Had I not been warned beforehand I'd probably had a hard time believing my ears. Not only did she play it both nights but especially the first night it was simply fantastic.

When You Loved Me: The recorded version was never a favorite of mine - it's like this song was recorded before it found it's final form. Live it tends to be much better and this time it was brilliant.

If I Could: Same thing really - the download version didn't impress me at all but it made for a perfect ending of the Wednesday night show.

Live on Tomorrow: Someone actually requested this at the first show - this made her go back and rehearse and give it to us the night after. This is another case where the recorded version doesn't do the song justice at all - the live version was simply spectacular!

All in all she served up no less than 33 different songs during those 2 shows. quite a feat in itself. And yes she did mess up stuff here and there but in her case it's almost like the messing up comes out as an added bonus. She's very relaxed about it and it often leads to some extra chatter with the audience.

Interesting to note how much she used her new toy - the sampler pedal that enables her to play along with herself, many times with very good results. It did of course choose to act up on the very first song of the first show but Juliana persisted and after asking us to rewind twice we did end up getting the solo part for Hotels.

One thing that can really ruin a solo performance like this is an audience that doesn't care much about what goes on at the stage and just stand around talking to each other during the songs. Well nothing to worry about there - at times, especially at the second show, it was almost eerie how silent the crowd could be during the breaks. Not that they didn't manage to show their appreciation - plenty of applause after each song. It was obvious that most really had been waiting for those 25 years or so and they weren't going to miss a second of it now that it finally came around.

All in all a very generous treat from Juliana in front of a group of totally dedicated fans. She mentioned several times that she really wanted to come back and bring her band - possibly in the fall. Now of course whether that will actually happen remains to be seen, but I'm pretty sure that more than a couple of fans will make sure to be there if it does!

Photo galleries

If I should come up with one critique about the venue I'd say that they might want to get some better stage lights. Especially from where I found myself at the first show it was pretty hard to get a good result - having to work with ISO1600 and shutter speeds around 1/8 sec is not a lot of fun. Things looked a lot better on Thursday though. You can find the galleries here:

Wednesday       Thursday

Several of the Thursday shots actually turned out good enough that they look OK in larger sizes so I've made a separate gallery for those who want to make prints or have really large monitors:

Thursday - full size images

Yeah it's a mess having to look in 2 different galleries for different sizes of the same images - I'll try to straighten this up one of these days!

Oh and for the photo geeks - equipment used was my Canon EOS 350D (that's what you US guys may know as a Digital Rebel XT) with a 28-135mm IS lens.