Juliette Lewis Kills But Can She Lick Celebrity Status?

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Juliette Lewis was at The Venue on Granville St Wednesday night doling out a taste of L.A. for the sold out crowd on hand. Equal parts Mick Jagger meets Axl Rose in regards to mannerisms and stage antics with equal parts L.A. Guns in visible aesthetic — Juliette Lewis is as serious about her music career as she is her acting reel.

Playing to a packed and not surprisingly female / non-binary dominant Venue crowd, Lewis strutted, posed, wailed and flirted her way through a very solid set.

Coming out to “Hot Kiss”, Lewis donned a Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA type bandana, tight black pants with a neon yellow stripe down the legs (and groin), and a Pretty Hate Machine era Trent Reznor-mesh bodysuit with back and side cut-outs. To start the set Lewis wore a post-industrial cropped vest with instead of tassels, hundreds of individually fastened rubber sequined curls that bounced individually as the energetic Lewis actively visited every square inch of the Venue stage.

Proud of her band and playing off them nicely, Lewis takes to the stage very agreeably. Lewis only kind of looks like a movie star playing a musician, which if we’re being honest is what most LA glam-rock seems to come off as.

Perhaps not as big of a stretch as one would hope, that uneasy look in her eyes where something could go sideways at any moment is just as prevalent live as it is on film.

Lewis and band took their time throughout the performance, clearly in no real hurry to get back to her “day job” as she put it. Lewis announced that her Vancouver date was the last show she and her band would play prior to picking it up again in the New Year. Her between song dialogue seemed confident yet vulnerable when she insinuating that film work was next on tap; or perhaps Lewis will be reprising as Detective Andrea Cornell in the third season of the ABC series Secrets and Lies.   

Not surprisingly Lewis has edge to her voice, but is actually able to harmonize nicely when called upon. Not particularly a ‘blast you out of the room’ strength in her vocal delivery,  but definitely not weak in any way either Lewis actually has a few very nice vocal tools at her disposal allowing her some fun range.

Lewis’ range allows the starlit to execute the soothing sound we became aware of during her role as Mallory Knox in the film Natural Born Killers. Knox of course sings beautifully for the first part of “Born Bad”, in both the film and on the film’s soundtrack.

Though her clean vocals are effeminate and soothing, it’s clear that Lewis thrives inside the soul of a Pat Benetar style rock delivery. More often than sounding like the great Pat Benetar however, Lewis sounds even more often like The Pack A.D.’s Becky Black. Though most likely any similarity between Lewis and Black could very well just be happenstance, as opposed to mimicry.

Lastly, whether just the subconscious conjuring leftover experiences, or her fondness for PJ Harvey has turned into a kinship (with the singer-songwriter), Lewis can’t sing for any measure of time without the 1995 film Strange Days coming to mind.

It was a year subsequent to the vocal tease in Natural Born Killers when we were exposed to Lewis vocal coming out party in Strange Days, having covered PJ Harvey twice in the film with two full songs on the soundtrack.

In conclusion Juliette Lewis live was exactly what I thought she would be. The LA culture clearly has a hold of this one something fierce, but of the few that have proven to be able to  hack it without getting churned out by the Hollyweird machine, Lewis ranks among them. Pretty straight ahead glam rock meets rock n’ roll, with just a hint of Indie influence,  Lewis seemed to have a good time at The Venue on Granville Street. The proud feminist had many of her sisters clearly elated to be in her presence, looking up at her with wide-eyes that you just don’t see at most shows. Of course, there were more than few star-fuckers in the crowd, just starring at the celebrities every move, seemingly unaware that there was even a concert being performed. I wondered on a couple of occasions if someone was going to go all John Malkovich from In The Line Of Fire style in The Venue with some of the unnerving gazes in the lead singer’s direction, but thankfully all refrained. With a last minute request of our photographer to only shoot Lewis from the side coupled with several other suspect moves, no matter what the rational it is sad to see a person seek out the life of a musician only to continue to be treated like a movie star. Juliette Lewis should be fully immersed in the world of an independent touring musician if she is to get out of it whatever it is that she seeks. Assumedly making decisions to protect her, the rewards and fulfillment Lewis deserve will never materialize if she is continually treated with kid gloves by her handlers. Hopefully at some point she becomes hip to the fact that she is still not being afforded the true musician’s experience, and asserts herself accordingly.  

Juliette Lewis Setlist

Hot Kiss

American Boy

Mind Full of Daggers

I Know Trouble

Future Deep

Hello Hero

Any Way You Want

Fantasy Bar

Got Love To Kill

Hard Lovin’ Woman

Proud Mary

­­­­­­Speaking

Suicide Dive Bombers

More live music review here.