Live Review: Juliana Hatfield, Philadelphia, June 19, 2019

Pardon the expression, but it’s electric when Juliana Hatfield leans into the feedback and embraces the guitar hero she was born to be.

Just as crucially as any of her snappy, self-deprecating lyrics or fragile, defiant vocals, the instantly recognizable riffs of Gen-X touchstones like “My Sister” and “Everybody Loves Me But You” and the cool chords of tunes like “Lost Ship” and “Everything’s For Sale” (both off this year’s Weird) sound both classic and inventive.

It boggles the mind that Hatfield plays to a half-empty room and is largely missing from the conversation about coming of age in the ‘90s while inferior songwriters have been universally canonized for so much less.

In addition to her carefully curated mix of old and new material, including full-band realizations of her solo work and side projects, Hatfield saluted the Police with a watered-down “Every Breath You Take” and paid tribute to her childhood idol with three songs from last year’s Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John.

Since we all know gender is merely a construct, I have to wonder who the kids we once were might have become if the poppy, winking and playfully objectifying “Physical” that furnished some of our building materials had been closer in style and substance to the insatiable, incendiary rock grenade that Hatfield lobs nightly. Bet those fully grown Gen-Xers would’ve been something fierce.

Bird Streets opened the show at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live.

—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich

Bird Streets