Juliette and the Licks, Middle East Downstairs, November 6, 2007
“I could play the wild mutation as a rock-and-roll star!” sang David Bowie in 1972, as Ziggy Stardust. Juliette Lewis — actress/singer-songwriter — has been playing that mutation for four years, fronting Juliette and the Licks. And lately she’s been stepping up the rock side of her endeavors. Star of Cape Fear, Kalifornia, and Natural Born Killers, Lewis enlisted rock-celeb pal Dave Grohl to drum on her second full-length, CD, Four on the Floor (Militia). Live at the Middle East a week ago last Tuesday, she had thundering Ed Davis on the kit, her two regular guitarists, Todd Morse and Kemble Walters, and bassist Jason Womack. What she doesn’t have just yet is any arresting new material.
Lewis’s first incarnation as a rocker yielded 2005’s You’re Speaking My Language (Fiddler). On the tour she was theatrical, striking all the histrionic, gymnastic rock poses for songs rooted in a Patti Smith/Joan Jett æsthetic. The material had snarl, spark, and melody. Now Lewis and company have turned a corner from punk toward plodding throb-and-thud hard rock. In front of about 250 diehards at the Middle East, the band put on a 70-minute show, one where Lewis earned an “A” for spunk, spirit, and sex appeal and a solid “C” for songs. If rock-stardom were posturing, tossing your hair, baring some skin, showing “edgy” cheerleader-esque enthusiasm, and spreading a between-song message of love, the 34-year-old would be golden.
But it’s not. It didn’t help that most of the lyrics were lost in the mix. And she lost more points for introducing “Sticky Honey” with the coy cliché “Are you ready for something sticky and sweet?” She also pointed out how “big this is to give up everything you know” to pursue her dream. Puh-leaze. All for the love of rock-and-roll, uh, mediocrity?
: Live Reviews
, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Dave Grohl, More