with Dearly Beloved, Kaleigh Baker
Backbooth, Orlando, FL • August 25, 2010
Over the last decade, Juliette Lewis has gone from being an actress who makes music on the side to a musician who does movies when she’s not touring. She can’t shake the acting bug (and we should all be thankful for that, especially when it garners results like Whip It!) even though she seems entirely at home on the stage of a tiny, tight, smoky, sticky club, like Orlando’s Backbooth, which was fit to bursting for her recent show.
The tail end of Kaleigh Baker’s set was all I caught, but it was a roaring Joplin-ized version of Queens of the Stone Age’s “No One Knows” that I heard and it was fiery! The local singer wasn’t off the stage for two minutes and she was getting asked to pose for photos with fans. I made a mental note to catch her set another time.
For Toronto’s Dearly Beloved, the audience was split. There were those who clearly loved every precious minute of the garage punk band’s sexually charged attack via the dueling vocals of Rob Higgins and Niva Chow, and those who heard nothing but noise. Higgins stroked sounds out of his bass while yelping and growling with a sometimes high/sometimes low voice, and yes, this put him very much in the “wannabe Jack White” category, while Chow stared the audience down with an intensity that bordered on spooky. The pair often fell head to head, in a very predatory fuck or flee sort of way. It was all very dark and edgy.
“That song wasn’t about heroin,” Higgins declared after one particularly volatile number, “but this one is.” And then he launched the band into a song The Velvet Underground would have been proud to perform.
We could have all used a bath after the dirty sweat that Dearly Beloved brought forth, but rather than cleanse we settled back into the muck for the exotic and unpredictable Juliette Lewis and her band, the New Romantiques.
Dressed in another one of her ab-revealing, high-heeled, skin-tight outfits with feathers around the collar and with brightly colored blue hair, Lewis slipped onto the dark stage to sit at the drum kit for the opening song. Of course, no stool in the back corner can contain the fierce front woman — soon she was at the lip of the stage striking her yoga poses while belting out songs from her polished “solo” album (2009’s Terra Incognita ) as well as from her more raw and rockin’ records she put out as Juliette & The Licks.
“Sticky Honey” and “Purgatory Blues” injected the set with an amphetamine rush, while “Hard Lovin’ Woman” found the band creeping into the Doors’ territory. The bluesy, spoken word build up that ignites into a belt-it-out closing allows Lewis to channel her inner PJ Harvey, and it’s when she taps into that vein that she not only excels, but where she finds her “voice.”
When she sings the single, “Uh Huh,” it’s poppy in a way that the rest of her music is not, but the crowd sings along breathing smoky life into the otherwise average tune. I’ll take the darker, weirder side of Juliette Lewis over the more mainstream any day of the week. “Fantasy Bar” and of course, the jewel of the night, “Hot Kiss,” are the songs that set my heart racing.
Whether you’re hip to her musical ventures or not, Juliette Lewis was born to entertain. That she thrives off playing the tiny dive bars when she could easily make the move to more comfortable venues is a testament to her love of the dirty world of rock ‘n’ roll. We should all show up to celebrate alongside her.
To see more photos from this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Juliette Lewis: http://www.juliettelewis.com