Juliette Lewis rocks The Republik
Musician and actor genuine and down-to-earth
By Gabrielle Domanski
Upon entering The Republik on Thursday night, one couldn’t help but notice the surprisingly low turnout. It was soon brought to my attention however, that you should never arrive precisely on time for a bar show. Nonetheless, it quickly became clear that the crowd was comprised of an older majority, which made it easy to wonder whether the audience had accumulated due to Juliette Lewis’ acting fame as opposed to her musical legacy.
In 1994 Lewis gained a massive cult following after her role in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and has since been involved with many critically acclaimed films. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that Lewis properly debuted her musical skill in the form of Juliette & The Licks. In 2009, the group disbanded and Lewis released a solo album, Terra Incognita.
After a couple of hours of waiting around, observing the audience’s levels of intoxication slowly increasing, the opening band, Web of Spider, finally took the stage. Three middle-aged dudes, one donning a leather jacket, cross necklace and long metal-head hair, began their set. The club had filled up by this point but few audience members visibly got into the music at first. The band’s sound was pure rock ‘n’ roll but in all honesty they could have been mistaken for a bar’s house band. The band definitely had stage presence; actually it just seemed to be the bass player who was particularly lavishing in his rock “stardom”, sweeping his guitar over the audience with the occasional hair toss. It was almost as if stepping into a teenage boy’s bedroom as he practices what it’d be like to be a “rock star” when he grows up.
The crowd seemed to be enjoying themselves three songs in but it’s always more difficult to judge their sincerity when alcohol enters the equation. After corroborating my views with a patron sat next to me, it became conclusive that the band was entertaining but lacked originality. As if we’d heard their material before, in another ‘80s metal/sleazy rock ‘n’ roll incarnation.
The next band however, showed more potential. With a female member, boys in Beatles boots and a tambourine, Dearly Beloved became an instant hit with the audience. The improvement in energy was massive, and the shift in stage presence was obvious. Dearly Beloved provided witty banter in between their catchy dance-rock tracks. The shared vocal duties of these young hipsters were musically closer to Lewis’ style but they maintained their own original sound.
By the time Lewis came on the air was thick with anticipation. Having previously graced the stage of the now defunct Warehouse, five long years had passed since Calgary was last in the presence of Lewis. Clad in skintight bell-bottoms, a feather shawl and blue hair, Lewis and the band opened with the high energy “You’re Speaking My Language”. The amount of energy and stage presence Lewis has is indescribable. The audience couldn’t help but be mesmerized by her ability to dominate the stage and her versatile voice. She performed mostly songs from her newest album, which included the bluesy “Hard Lovin’ Woman”, where she evoked the spirit of Janis Joplin, and the oh-so-sweet “Uh Huh”. Lewis got the crowd all fired up with her most danceable track “Got Love to Kill”, followed immediately after by “Hot Kiss”.
There are few crossover artists who can manage to hold their own in both of their preferred mediums but Lewis clearly excels in all she sets her mind to. Her music is energetic and diverse, showcasing her breadth as an individual and mimicking her versatility in the acting domain. But throughout all of the multi-faceted fame, everyone can agree that she remains genuine and down-to-earth. She even met fans at the merch table shortly after the show, to take pictures, give autographs, and actually have conversations.
Hopefully Calgary doesn’t have to wait another five years to welcome back the fierce rock stylings of Juliette Lewis.