Review: Juliana Hatfield in my living room, “How to Walk Away” edition, March 20, 2021

“I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”

Let’s just let that moment of gratitude sink in for a minute. Juliana Hatfield’s livestream performance this afternoon of her 2008 How to Walk Away album had its share of rough moments for the artist, not to mention that it inspired her to share some rough memories. So let’s feel the gratitude for a minute.

She said she was grateful for all of her fans who watch these livestreams (this was her fourth monthly performance of a full album) and support her with donations. I know we’re all grateful she does them. I’m so grateful her music has been with me for more than half my life and that she’s still making music. I’m grateful that I can be part of a community of fans that makes her feel lucky.

Okay, now we can dig into this album and this performance of it. It takes me back to my first year as a copywriter, a gig I’m still plugging away at, albeit at a different company. It was a weird time in my life because I was learning a new gig, working in a new field at a new agency run by weird people, and because the summer this album came out I had eight month old twin boys at home. So even though the album is titled How to Walk Away, its presence in my life, having a new Juliana Hatfield to listen to, and to feel it was her best in years, ironically grounded me.

Come to think of it, as long as we’re talking about gratitude, even though my boys made this livestream occasionally as difficult to get through as it was for Juliana, having to pause it to break up fights over video games and inflate their bikes’ tires, I’m grateful those boys who were babies when this album came out are now healthy 13-year-olds.

But back to the show. I enjoyed it and even though her throat was a little dry, I loved the new raspy inflection in it, especially during “This Lonely Love.” A fun addition to her vocal toolbox. But the vocal dryness was just one of many struggles she dealt with during the performance. Frankly, though, I think the struggles were more in her perception than in the audience’s – at least in the one audience member I can speak for.

Still, she redid the first song (which sounded fine the first time), “The Fact Remains,” saying, “I’m gonna shake it off and start over… It’s hard to stay in the zone.” She covered her eyes with shades, hoping that would help. Still, once she finished it, she shouted, “Mother fucker! I got one chord wrong!”

“That solo sucked,” she lamented in the midst of “Just Lust,” during which she also added the self-loathing new lyric, “I hate myself, I hate myself! I don’t know how to play my own songs!”

She addressed how hard she is on herself, though. While she acknowledged she knows some people think it’s cute when she makes mistakes, she said, “I want things to be good for you… I don’t like it when I do it and I do it too much.” Later, she expanded on why she gets upset when she makes mistakes, saying it feels like she’s on a track and then skips off it and it can be hard to get back on it. But that’s just being human. It happens to all of us. But it’s heartwarming to know how badly she wants these livestreams to be as perfect as possible for us.

She also acknowledged that this is a really sad album, so that may have been clouding some of the experience of performing it for her. She said writing and recording it was really intense and it was recorded at the late Fountains of Wayne singer Adam Schlesinger’s studio, so that memory made it tough for her, too.

Some random thoughts and quotes:

– I loved hearing one of my favourite four-song sequences in her catalogue (before which she switched from acoustic to her pink First Act electric): “This Lonely Love,” “My Baby…,” “Just Lust” and “Now I’m Gone.” And that’s followed by “Remember November,” which is also gorgeous.

– “You’d think this was my first gig.”

– After “Now I’m Gone”: “That is a nasty song. I feel kind of bad about it. But we’re friends again.”

– We got an interesting story about a friend who sued her years ago, but her manager advised her to pay him without going to court, so she did and now they’re friends again.

– Her beautiful chocolate lab, Charlie, who so reminds me of my late Wrigley, was in the house again!

– She talked about how music is more of an escape for her than ever these days.

– “So Alone” inspired a story about a tough night during a rough time of anxiety. While on Ambien to ease her anxiety and calm her racing heart, she had visions of the walls and floor of her room undulating and her furniture had personalities. “I started to have a conversation with this Danish teak rocking chair… I’m sure that chair from Denmark had some interesting things to say.” But she doesn’t remember what it said.

– She finished with a six-song encore, which included two tracks from her upcoming album, Blood, and her cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”

– “Thank you, Reading Glasses Roadie.” (She had jokingly asked for reading glasses to read her own liner notes.)

Before responding to some fan comments, she ended the musical portion with a fitting quote: “It could be worse! That’s the motto.” No doubt, Juliana. I think that’s a motto we can all live by these days. Like Juliana did throughout this performance, it acknowledges the shit, while simultaneously acknowledging some gratitude. See how we full-circled on gratitude here? That’s good stuff.

Check out/rewatch the video of the performance while it’s still online:

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