TVD Live Shots: Juliana Hatfield Three at the O2 Academy Islington, 5/21

It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than three decades since Juliana Hatfield burst onto the scene as a core member of the Blake Babies. Ever since, she’s consistently released some of the most unique and celebrated indie pop records of our time.

Even though I’m a fan of pretty much anything she touches, my favorite will always be The Juliana Hatfield Three. 1993’s Become What You Are was my introduction to Hatfield and the entry point into her world. This was her major label debut, and in the ’90s when a major wanted to push something to break through, they did a hell of a job. Not so much anymore. Furthermore, this was the record that polished Hatfield’s garage-rock, folkish punk while adding a dark overtone and touch of mystique. Combine that with the tongue in cheek lyrical genius that is Hatfield, and you have the makings for a remarkable debut.

The setlist that night was a bit of a surprise, to be honest. Touring as The Juliana Hatfield Three one would suspect that material would be the majority of the set. Become What You Are was represented with the classics “Spin the Bottle,” “My Sister,” and “I Got No Idols.” Curiously missing from the set however was “Supermodel.” Even more surprising was the lack of songs from the 21 years in the making follow-up, Whatever, My Love, with only one song in the set, “If I Could.”

I’m not necessarily complaining as I was just happy to see Juliana in any one of her projects playing in London, but I would say that’s it’s more of a proper Juliana Hatfield solo show featuring some of the more obscure fan favorites, along with a few covers, than a full-on JHT gig. The other big takeaway for me was how heavy the songs came across live. I don’t remember the live show being so aggressive, but maybe that’s the differentiator here for the JHT—they had a punk vibe that may not have come across otherwise.

Whatever the case may be, I thought it was a fantastic show and contrary to some of the reviews from her shows in the last several years across the States, Hatfield looked to be genuinely enjoying the gig and the fans.  She was definitely having fun with the band and she absolutely poured her heart into every song—all the way into the second encore.

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