Sometimes I like to play a little game with myself: I like to wonder what different people I see in the street would be like if they were famous. I definitely recommend it as it’s surprising how instantaneously more attractive the most uninteresting males can become when you imagine them in a rock band, on the silver screen; or just the red carpet. The other part of my game reverses the process: what would celebrities be like if they weren’t famous? Can you imagine said movie star behind a checkout counter? Or a bar? I think there are only two celebrities for whom this question troubles me. The first is Jim Carrey. The second is Juliette Lewis.
Lewis has impressed the socks off me in pretty much every film I’ve seen her in – notably Natural Born Killers, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Kalifornia. I’ve long admired not only her acting skills, but the fact that she really appears to have zero fear. I don’t doubt her true talents have helped her to play crazy lunatics like Mallory in Natural Born Killers, but I have always wondered to what extent the lady is a little loony herself. In short, I cannot imagine this woman in a job that doesn’t involve performing. Shop Assistant? No. Nurse? Never. Teacher? A definite liability. In fact, when Juliette enters the stage I wonder how she ever had the discipline to work on film sets, which can so often be tedious places, even for an actor. Hyperactivity is running in every vein and out of every pore of her body. You can hear it in every note she sings.
We’re at the historic Alhambra Live Music venue in central Paris. After a very commendable supporting slot from London band Scanners, Juliette took to the stage draped in an elaborate Japanese-inspired floor-length red chiffon headdress. When she rips it off, she unveils a combination that I have been scouring eBay and charity shops ever since in an attempt to recreate – a bolero comprised of iridescent crows feathers, a rich blue lace bodice, black and gold harlequin hotpants, and sequinned leggings.
If she had stood still, she would have held my attention, but the moment that the guts kick into her first song it is like a bomb went off – a bomb which kept exploding over and over for the next hour. She simply did not stop moving and if she didn’t have a crick in her neck the following day from shaking her head every which way imaginable, then I’m Brad Pitt (who, incidentally, became her boyfriend following their stint together in Kalifornia).
And she can absolutely sing. It’s a shame that artists get such a bad rap for moving between different audiovisual media: going from acting to singing has developed a stigma which is less pertinent is you go in the other direction. I blame for the most part the rather unimpressive Hollywood males who have indulged themselves in critically un-acclaimed music making (Russell Crowe, Keanu Reeves, even Johnny Depp – please stand up). But Juliette has talent – not just musically, but she has a true perfomer’s stage presence and a tangible desire to entertain.
She’s refreshingly intimate and honest during the set, often giving us insight into the inspirations from her songs (including a recent crush on a younger, Australian man, who she indulged in long transatlantic phone conversations with, during which he recounted his unrequited love for another girl – there’s something reassuring in knowing that even Hollywood superstars aren’t immune to this!). At one point she discusses how the previous year had been a difficult one – with both a relationship break-up and the separation from her band ‘The Licks’. My personal highlight of the gig was the song ‘Sticky Honey’ – a track which is indeed from her time with the Licks. Whilst I definitely overplayed when it came out in 2007, it still sounded great live. Noche sin fin and Terra Incognita (the latter being the title of her new album) are also loud and proud rock epics which Juliette puts 110% into delivering.
Juliette and her band have just finished their European tour in the UK, so until she hits the road again I’m recommending you hit YouTube for clips, or why not check out the film Strange Days in which she plays a rock singer and you can get a little taste of her stage talent from way back in 1995 (I’m still struggling to believe she’s 33 – she seems to have had ten lives).