Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield
Thursday, September 30
Better Than: A perfect reunion show without drama.
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that last night’s Juliana & Evan show at Mercury Lounge, the second in a two-night stint, was a bit more like therapy than a straight reunion. Anyone who has followed the career of these two ’90s alterna-babes knows that their relationship has always been tumultuous and somewhat undefined, at least in the public eye. Rumors about their relationship have persisted for more than two decades; here, they at least tried to lay them to rest.
“This is explicitly about having sex with you,” Dando mumbled, prefacing the hit “It’s About Time.”
“I didn’t know that until we were rehearsing recently,” Hatfield quipped, making light of it. “But I never did it.”
“That’s true,” he said.
Following that confession, the show devolved for Dando, self-consciousness taking center stage, especially during the subsequent Hatfield song, “Evan,” off her most recent album Peace and Love: “Evan, I just love you I guess.”
Watching two characters on stage, working through their fractured relationship like regular humans, could be seen as therapy for the devoted audience as well, many of whom have waited since 1990 for this performance. Indeed, Juliana and Evan have supported each other musically throughout their careers, but not until now have they extensively performed with each other, playing each other’s songs.
To watch the pair on stage together was like watching two long-lost best friends reunite. They complimented each other through the set. Hatfield: “I love that chord you played, that was really pretty.” Dando: “I fucking love Juliana’s new record.”
The show went on for nearly two hours, the songs spanning both their respective careers. Dando tours almost every year, playing the hits the same way in each performance, without much enthusiasm. But last night was different. With Hatfield to back him up, he seemed inspired to take chances with his songs, to sing more earnestly, to smile, even.
While Wednesday’s show had been easy, last night’s was hard, Dando explained, adding that he’d been up all night. But when they were on, they were on. Classic tracks like the Blake Babies’ “Rain” and the Lemonheads’ “Paid to Smile” sounded like pretty pennies: new, shiny, and strong. Both singers’ voices are caramel-coated even this far into their careers, and their harmonies last night, accompanied by just acoustic guitars, sounded perfect.
Drama does make for a good show, and with Juliana and Evan, it’s always been about that. Oh, and the songs are great, too.
Highlights: “Brain Damage,” a song penned by Dando and Ben Lee for the 2001 Blake Babies reunion album God Bless the Blake Babies; “When You Loved Me,” a Hatfield song off her 2000 album Beautiful Creature.
Critical Bias: If you find vulnerability cathartic, this was as cathartic as it gets.
Overheard: Guy to girl, pre-show: “Are you ready for this?” Girl: “No!”
Random Notebook Dump: How many people are here for Evan, and how many for Juliana?
Paid to Smile
Cells (Teenage Fanclub cover)
Down About It
Waiting for Heaven
All My Life
When You Loved Me
What Is Wrong
Ride With Me
Too Drunk to Fuck (Dead Kennedys cover)
The End of the War
$1,000 Wedding (Gram Parsons cover)
It’s About Time
Baby Gets High (Madder Rose cover, originally performed by the Blake Babies)
My Drug Buddy