Although Juliana Hatfield broke into music during the grunge era, she always had a taste for pop radio of the previous decades, and she has let this show through in her music. She wrote of Mellencamp’s Jack and Diane for “Swan Song” on her 1998 album, Bed. And she recruited The Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler in 2008 for “This Lonely Love” on her album How to Walk Away.
Recently, Juliana dedicated entire albums to covers, paying tribute to Olivia Newton-Jone (2018), The Police (2019), and ELO (2023) — all released via American Laundromat Records. But she first covered “Every Breath You Take” by the Police as a bonus track on her year 2000 album, Beautiful Creature.
And so Juliana has a taste for pop classics, and she comes by it earnestly. Over the weekend, she shared her love of those songs and classic radio with a sold-out show at the Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center during a date on a brief winter tour.
Juliana was full of good spirits and dry humor during her appearance at The Kennedy Center, which drew a crowd of hardcore admirers deeply familiar with her music and her history of pop affection, on Jan. 26. And so the Millennium Stage was full of enthusiasm for Juliana’s stripped down and occasionally ethereal covers, which began early in the show with “Roxanne” by The Police. She soon performed “Telephone Line” by ELO, turning the first line of the chorus into a call and response with the audience, calling upon us to sing back to her “OH” in “Oh, oh, telephone line, give me some time.” Toward the end of the set, Juliana also performed ELO’s “Sweet Is the Night.”
The Olivia Newton-John covers album also received some attention, as toward the end of the concert, Juliana sang “Please Mr. Please” and “Dancing’ ‘Round and ‘Round” — two of Olivia’s country songs. These songs suited Juliana really well. She’s always had a taste for sad songs, and she sang Newton-John’s numbers with sincerity and authenticity.
Juliana also played some recent originals including “Had a Dream” from her 2021 studio album, Blood, and the excellent selections “Lost Ship” and “Everything’s for Sale” from 2019’s Weird.
Watch the official music video for “Lost Ship” by Juliana Hatfield on YouTube:
The hourlong concert performance also explored Juliana’s back catalog. She teamed with Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws for an act called Minor Alps and a sole album in 2013, and early in the show she performed “I Don’t Know What to Do with My Hands” from that record. At the midpoint of the show, she performed “My Sister,” one of her most famous early efforts and a true crowdpleaser from 1993’s Become What You Are.
In closing the show, Juliana reacted to a shouted request from the audience for “Spin the Bottle.” “I told myself that I wasn’t going to play that one again,” Juliana said in response, “or else I would die.” After singing “Spin the Bottle” (which also appears on Become What You Are), Juliana fell over in a mock death scene, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
As she packed to go, the audience gave Juliana Hatfield a standing ovation. It was heartfelt and true, just like our Boston chanteuse.
Here are some photos of Juliana Hatfield performing for the Millennium Stage at The Kennedy Center on Jan. 26, 2024. All pictures by Mickey McCarter.