october 2008

UK & Ireland tour

Amidst all kind of talk about not wanting to go on the road anymore yet another surprise visit to Europe came about. When the London show was announced it took only a short glance in the calendar to decide about that - a quick trip cross the North Sea to enjoy another show from my favorite artist - yes I can do that! Later on Dublin and Glasgow was added and I was tempted. Always wanted to do some travel in Scotland but for some reason it had never happened yet - seemed like this could be a good chance to combine pleasure with pleasure. And of course staying in either London or Glasgow while Juliana was playing in Dublin wouldn't make sense, especially considering that Ryanair was practically giving away plane tickets between these cities. I decided to do 3 days of concerts followed by another 3 days being "just a tourist" in Scotland:

London - Friday 10th:

A giant ferris wheel right next to old established landmarks like Big Ben and Westminster Abbey - how on earth did that happen? The really weird thing is that somehow it works out very well indeed - especially here at dusk this Friday in October where I find my camera pointing at it all the time.


And yes Queen Elizabeth Hall can be found right next to it in the south bank area. Quite different from the typical Juliana venue - it's a concert hall that seats around 900 Not sold out this evening but at least it seems to be more than half filled.

The first set is a mix of readings from When I Grow Up and solo acoustic performances. Obviously the reading thing is very new for her and it isn't hard to tell. I think it's something she could become really good at - I mean just listen to Silly Goofball Poems - but here on stage she seems a bit nervous about it and rushes it somewhat.

The moment she launches into the first song My Baby I suddenly remember why this is so much worth the journey. I've never heard her solo acoustic before but after this I can't wait to hear more of it and I really wish she'll bring the acoustic for the Dublin and Glasgow gigs. From the new record she also does Shining On and Law of Nature and they all work very well without the sugar coating of the recorded versions. Slow Motion is another highlight - one of my favorites and it really fits the acoustic setting.

She ends the set with a stunning rendition of a great new song - I Picked You Up. Very reminiscent actually of 2 years ago on the Scandinavian tour when she introduced the equally beautiful On Your Mind - hearing it for the first time live I just can't wait to hear it again!

For the second set Juliana is joined by none other than Freda and Jake Smith. Really cool to see her with a band again and especially nice to have Freda around. Not only is she a gifted drummer with her own very distinct style but she always seems to be just radiating positive energy. Of course with Freda and Jake just coming down from Nottingham for this single gig they haven't really had a chance to practice a lot and no doubt this has played a big role when putting together a set list with no less than 5 Some Girls songs and 2 songs from the Blake Babies repertoire.

Having never had a chance to see the real Some Girls lineup this is not a bad replacement at all. Jake does a good job of filling in for Heidi even though they're not too similar in playing style - it's pretty obvious that he's more of a guitar player. So 5 original Some Girls songs but also the only 2 HTWA songs that has made it into the second set - Just Lust and Now I'm Gone - ends up sounding very Some Girlish this evening. All very enjoyable - only drawback is the sound mix where pretty much anything but the vocals seem too quiet most of the time. Perfect ending with Juliana doing a solo electric version of On Your Mind.


Dublin - Saturday 11th:


After spending a few hours along (and on) the Thames I head off to Gatwick catching my flight to Dublin. The plane ends up being delayed by an hour or so and the time schedule is getting tight but I just manage to find my hotel before heading straight to the Sugar Club. This is another unusual venue - it's pretty small and the audience is seated in comfortable couches with tables in front of them. With the massive red back curtain on stage the only thing missing is a couple of dwarfs talking backwards to provide a very authentic David Lynch setting.

The opener seems to be one of those "local guy playing his own songs on an acoustic" setups - not too exciting really but luckily he knows not to stay too long. It's Juliana's first time on Irish ground and she delivers a very solid solo electric set. One of the goodies is Running Out and she also treats us to nice versions of Slow Motion and I Picked You Up which is really becoming my new favorite unreleased song. It does seem like quite a few in the audience are just out on their regular Saturday night trip to the club without really having any idea about who's on stage but she's still well received. And clearly there's actual fans around too - as one guy yells out "My baby doesn't love me anymore" in true Juliana style she instantly replies "Oh that's so sad!" - and goes on to play the song.

Once again the sound mix is a bit of a let down. Vocals are too loud compared to the guitar. Not that I don't like her voice but she's also a great guitar player - no reason to hide that part. Worst thing though is that the PA at the Sugar Club is kind of crappy which means that at this volume the vocals get somewhat distorted in all but the very quiet songs. And yes I could also have done without the pushy waitresses running around checking your drink situation every 20 minutes. But overall definitely worth it making this quick visit to Dublin which also happens to be my first time in Ireland.


Glasgow - Sunday 12th:

Sunday I've only got time for a quick walk in Dublin before proceeding to the airport so yes Dublin I owe you a real visit! The flight to Prestwick is short and uneventful - I'm even starting to get used to the fact that inside a RyanAir plane everything must be either bright yellow or bright blue - probably some kind of punishment related to the really cheap fares! I pick up my rental car - and yes as expected they placed the steering wheel in the wrong side. It's my first exposure to driving on the left side of the road and immediately after leaving the airport they've got 2 roundabouts just to put those right side drivers through the test! Nevertheless I do manage to find Glasgow where the traffic has pretty much come to a stand still. After a bit of circling caused by major GPS freakout I even manage to find my hotel which is located pretty close to the Oran Mor venue. Usually I check tripadvisor or similar before booking any lodging but for some reason in this case I didn't check before afterwards and the things that I read sounded rather scary (although at the same time pretty entertaining):

  • The hotel is probably the worst I have stayed in ever..............
  • I asked about the free parking and I was directed to the back of the building where I couldn't get into the car park as the small car park is on a steep slop that probably a 4x4 can get into without damaging the front of their car.
  • I just don't have anything positive to say about our experience
  • DO NOT stay at this hotel it was the worst thing i could have done the staff also told me i could park outside the hotel and when i did i got a parking ticket,when i spoke to the hotel manager he said "if i told you to jump over a cliff would you do that" i was furious.
  • I recently had the misfortune to stay in the Hillhead Hotel, the worst B&B I have ever encountered! Upon arrival I was greated by an over worked foul mouthed employee, whom I later witnessed taking a delivery of narcotics (speed, she informed me, so she could cope with her work load).

So I arrive prepared for the worst but it turns out to be quite OK - yes the parking is a bit of a challenge but I manage to do it without losing any bumpers. I'll be leaving very early next morning so whether the breakfast lives up to it's reputation will remain a mystery.


The Oran Mor is an old church hosting a number of establishments - I manage to visit most of them before realizing that tonights show takes place in The Venue which is located in the basement. On entry my first reaction is - oh no - not another setup with tables and chairs. It just doesn't feel right for me to sit down and listen to a Juliana show. Luckily I manage to find a good standing place along the side and it must be said that the club as such has a really nice atmosphere. Opening act has already started - again a local guy with guitar thing but much more interesting this time around, makes me regret being late.

While the show in Dublin was nice, tonight's edition is nearly perfect. Both the audience and Juliana seem more into it and while the vocals are still mixed a bit higher than I would prefer, the PA can handle it. She starts out with 364 - couple of other new entries on the set list are This Lonely Love and the big surprise Little Pieces which I haven't heard her play since 93! Unfortunately her shipment of books and CD's hasn't arrived in time so instead when she mentions the book she borrows one from a fan to show what it looks like. Also somewhat oddly another fan presents her with a gift which turns out to be - a leaf...


After this terrific conclusion of the musical part of my journey I'm totally ready to discover the beauty of Scotland. I head north along Loch Ness up to Inverness, down to St. Andrews on the east coast before flying back from Edinburgh Wednesday. I'll spare you the details but it is kind of pretty isn't it?


Also you can find pictures from the 3 shows here: