Last Night: Juliette & the Licks at Culture Room

Juliette and the Licks

October 30, 2007

Culture Room

Better Than: Patti Smith fronting the MC5 – or just as good anyway.

It’s a sad state of affairs when more people turn out on a Tuesday for the Tiki-fied floor show at Mai Kai than for a second South Florida coming of Juliette and the Licks. Not that’s there’s anything wrong with Polynesian kitsch, mind you, or the gentle swaying of scantily clad native types. But for an act as bold and as ballsy to not summon a crowd in market as large and diverse as ours is, frankly, pitiful.

Thank Zeus neither Juliette nor her Licks seems bothered by the slight, and thank Zeus there are still a good many few who aren’t afraid to go bump in the night, no matter how many bruises it leaves behind.

And last night was a bruiser alright. Taking the stage to the gutter-croon strut of Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing” before breaking with “American Boy,” the Licks kicked, crunched and crashed their way right back into my heart, where they admittedly had been all along.

Okay, so the they is a she and the she’s named Juliette Lewis, and, yes, our heart’s been skipping for her since Gilbert Grape, but with her mop-topped gang beside, behind and sometimes astride her, dame Juliette puts the skip to a whole new beat.

Think meaty. Think mad. And think the roar of last year’s breakout Four in the Floor, of which much of the Licks’ Culture Room set was comprised. The sweaty strut of “Sticky Honey,” the breathless tease of “Hot Kiss,” the back alley depth of “Purgatory Blues,” the oversized ride of “Get Up,” which was written about her “band of brothers,” begins and ends with Who-like triumph (replete with windmills!), yet at its core is pure Brian Jones-era Stones – or J. Geils gone to Hole.

But it was with “Death of a Whore” that the ever It Girl was most disturbing – and most divine. Possessed by sex and danger, atwirl with growl and roar, Lewis frenzied to the floor in a puddle of pathos, at once exorcising and embracing the demon seed inside her.

It also apparently disturbed one young punter so much he threw his beer on the band, which in turn prompted guitarist Todd Morse to jump into the crowd and have him thrown outta the house.

Yet, rude as was the dumb one’s drunken move, it didn’t stop the Licks from kicking out some of the best jams this side of MC5. “You’re Speaking My Language” came off as a cauldron for kindred spirits, and “Got Love to Kill” slung to a low new high. When Juliette asked us “what’s it gonna be,” we all knew there never “was any question in our mind.”

Scolds who say Juliette’s only rocking ‘round the world because her acting career’s gone to the wayside are totally missing the point. Lewis is in the Licks because she needs to be, down to the very marrow of her being.

In other words, this chick means it. And she means it well. Oh yeah, and next time the lass brings to town her brash, do yourself a favor and be there. You’ll thank yourself in the morning, aches and all. -- John Hood

Random Detail: The feathers in her headdress confirm her warrior soul.

By the Way: Dave Grohl may have played drums on Four on the Floor, but Ed Davis has got a kick that could kill you.

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John Hood