I partook in my first livestream show in several months yesterday afternoon: Juliana Hatfield from the Q Division studios in Boston. She played her 1998 Bed album from top to bottom, plus a few contemporaneous b-sides and “Staying In” from Weird, her 2019 outing, as non-encore encores. One thing that made it cool: She recast those electric songs into acoustic marvels. Another thing that made it cool: her dog Charlie lumbered into frame toward the end. (My Shuffled Life has an excellent recap.)
It got me to thinking back to what was a truly magical evening: When Diane and I saw Juliana and Evan Dando at the World Cafe Live in our old stomping ground of Philadelphia – 10 years ago tonight (Jan. 24th) as I write. Like yesterday, it was an acoustic affair.
The calendar shows that the night in question was a Monday, which means Diane likely took the train into Philly while I drove in from Radnor, where my office was located. Late at night or on a weekend, the trip generally takes 20 minutes, but rush hour can turn the ride into a grueling slog that takes forever. It was also a cold, cold day and slightly not-as-cold night, with the temperature clocking in at 9 degrees (Fahrenheit) when I rolled out of bed at 6am and climbing to a balmy (all things being relative) 25 degrees by 6pm.
We ate dinner at the World Cafe Live Upstairs, then took our front-row seats in the main room. (You can see the backs of our heads as the video starts – that’s us in the first two seats to the right of the middle aisle; I ‘m wearing a baseball cap.) Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, who has since truncated her name to just Lady Lamb, opened and, honestly, threw me for a loop at first, as her deep, blues-drenched vocals didn’t match her tiny frame. I enjoyed her set enough, however, that I picked up her CD (and got it autographed) after the show.
No matter how good or bad an opening act, of course, the reason for attending most concerts is the headliner: In this case, Evan Dando and Juliana Hatfield. Evan looked like mountain man Grizzly Adams, while Juliana could well have stepped from the pages of a fashion magazine. When their voices blended together, they stopped time.
The set spanned their careers, from the Blake Babies to Juliana’s oft-overlooked (and under-appreciated) 2010 album Peace and Love. What I found cool: Juliana often sang along silently on Evan’s songs. One highlight: “Somebody Is Waiting for Me.” Others: “Into My Arms,” with Juliana taking lead; “It’s About Time”; “Tourist”; covers of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” and Gram Parson’s “$1000 Wedding” (if only for Diane’s scream after the first line); “It’s a Shame About Ray”; and “So Alone.”
After the show, Juliana, Evan and Lady Lamb lingered in the lobby for a spell, answering questions and signing autographs. I mentioned to Juliana that she and Evan should release a duets album, as they sounded so good together, and she replied, “Maybe we will.” (Or words to that effect.) I’m sure she was just humoring me.
When I arrived home, I posted this to Facebook: “Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando = hands down, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Utterly mesmerizing. (Didn’t hurt that we were front row center, with Juliana literally 10 feet away from us.) “It’s About Time,” “$1000 Wedding,” “Somebody Is Waiting for Me,” and tons more. AND opening act Lady Lamb the Beekeeper was spellbinding. Plus, we got to meet Juliana and Lady Lamb!” A good time was had by all, in other words.