Review: Juliana Hatfield in my living room, “Beautiful Creature” edition, June 19, 2021

Man, that opening riff of “Daniel” really made me want bok choy. Just kidding. Bok choy was somehow a surprisingly wonderful theme in Juliana Hatfield’s livestream of her 2000 Beautiful Creature album this afternoon. What that opening riff really made me do was smile, because of how immediately and intensely it took me back to the summer of 2000.

With that in mind, I’m going to jump seven songs in, to “Might Be In Love,” because it’s the most evocative of that time for me. That chord progression in the chorus is just so gorgeous. And it has to be one of my favourite songs of hers. In a really sappy way, it reminds me of my big unrequited love, which was in full force in the summer of 2000. I loved her, and I think this song helped me realize that and be okay with it. The fact that she sings “I think I might,” couched it in that indecision, that lack of 100% commitment, regarding such an intense subject, which made it okay for me to admit it to myself. We spent so much time together, and nothing happened but friendship. But in a way that was okay. I treasured our time together and I’m happy I experienced it.

The creature that was this livestream was truly beautiful. Here are my favourite quotes and thoughts that came up during the show:

  • She said after the second song, “This album’s kind of…” and paused and decided to keep going. But I shout-whispered at the screen, “No! I want to know what the album kind of is!” She may have answered it, though, after “Choose Drugs,” when she said, “This album’s kind of sad.”
  • How beautiful is that guitar interlude after the verses of “Choose Drugs”?
  • She thought the lyrics of “Cool Rock Boy” sounded “dumb” and “cringey” to her now, so she rewrote some of them. It became “Baby Bok Choy.” Hilarious!
  • I always thought that song’s grit might have worked well on Total System Failure, the heavy rock album she released the same day as this one, as the band Juliana’s Pony.
  • “Change is the only constant. You have to deal with it.”
  • In “Don’t Rush Me,” she sang, “I miss your green leaves” instead of, “I miss your body.” She stopped to clarify that she made this change to add bok choy into this song as well, then released an exasperated sigh at herself. But it was pretty funny.
  • “I’m actually not the biggest fan of bok choy, if you want to know the truth.”
  • Her amazing intro to “Slow Motion” really struck a chord with me, so I’m transcribing the whole damn thing. “You ever feel like you’re walking through a haze, but you haven’t taken any drugs? You feel like the air is thick and you’re trying to reach out to people and communicate, but you just can’t. There’s like a thick air… barrier. Ayah barriah.” Up until she Boston-ized “air barrier,” I was like, “Yes! Yes, I have felt that way.” And then I just laughed at her hilarious Boston-ization. Then I went back to relating to her 100% as she continued, “I guess it’s also about communication problems. Not only not being able to communicate thoughts and feelings, but not being able to put them into words in your own mind. Not understanding feelings or something. Or not being able to identify them.” Yeah, this is so me. Put a keyboard in front of me or a pen in my hand and I can articulate everything I’m thinking, for the most part. But put me in a conversation with someone – especially if it’s a heightened situation, like an argument – then forget about it. I have so much trouble finding the right words. I think in slow motion, like the song says.
  • Regarding the heat outside, and, presumably, a comment on global warming: “We’re all screwed! But we always were. We always were all screwed. It’s the nature of being alive.”
  • Regarding her inability to explain “Somebody is Waiting for Me”: “Some songs are better when they’re not understood.”
  • She spoke of hoping she doesn’t cry during “Until Tomorrow,” but added in her wonderfully self-deprecating way, “But chances are I’ll mess up the song so badly that it won’t be sad, it’ll be sad in a different way than the subject matter.” It actually turned out to be a really beautifully intense performance. Sad, but somehow hopeful. She let out a wistful sigh when she finished.  
  • It was fun how she slurred and blah-blah-blahed through the closing lyrics of “The Easy Way Out,” and the studio crew applauded her. She explained that the song is kind of nasty. And, yeah, I can see that. If you were the subject, you wouldn’t want someone to say of you: “And he cries like a girl. And he lies to the world.”
  • “Hotels” and “When You Loved Me” were as beautiful as you’d expect. That’s the thing about this album. It’s called Beautiful Creature, and I know the subject matter is about far-from-beautiful experiences, but the melodies and chord progressions are just so fittingly gorgeous. Every song is its own beautiful creature. But this is also a theme through a lot of her music, and something she’s spoken a lot about recently regarding her new album, Blood. She likes to juxtapose beautiful sounds with lyrics that are far from happy.
  • The encore was a little more improvised than many of the other livestreams. She took passes at “Lost Ship” from 2019’s Weird (which I love and wish she could’ve played more of) and “Wonder Why” from 2017’s Pussycat, awesomely turning part of the latter into an ode to her dog Charlie, as she wandered around the studio. There was also “Candy Wrappers” from 2011’s There’s Always Another Girl, which featured some fun requests for forgotten lyrics. Then came “If I Could” from her second album with The Juliana Hatfield Three in 2015, Whatever, My Love. Finally, after insisting she was done, she jokingly tested our patience by trying to figure out “Chunks,” a song off this year’s Blood.
  • “Home is certain songs that we find connect to us.” Totally. Beautifully said.
  • She seemed to enjoy reading off the locations of everyone in the chat at the end – in fact, she said it was “beautiful,” which is a great way to end the Beautiful Creature livestream.

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