Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Dolce Ultra Lounge, Miami Beach
(Even) Better than: The last time I saw her, at the Gibson Showroom in 2008, actually.
Julieta Venegas is something of a shape shifter. Her sound has remained in a state of perpetual motion throughout her career. Hers has been a constant evolution of artistic sensibilities and a never-ending series of experiments, wherein she tests her own boundaries. She's not quiet reinventing herself on each go around--her sound like a signature, featuring that quirky upbeat vibe, and a soothing sweet as honey vocal style. But neither does she remain static, content with what worked last.
Perhaps it's because music for her, even at this stage, nearly a full lifetime since picking up her first instrument at the age of eight and 12 years since releasing her solo debut Aqui, is neither a way of life nor a way to make a living. It's an obsession. Maybe it's because she approaches not only each new project, or even each new song, but every element of every song with near-innocence and childlike wonder. In a recent conversation with the Tijuana-born singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, she conveys that.
"Curiosity, I think is my motor," she says. "And for me that's really important, just being curious and finding out new things."
She goes on to explain that her penchant for trying her hand at new and unexpected instruments stems from that as well.
"All the instruments I play, I pick up as ways of arranging and dressing up the song. I'm basically a pianist. I'm not advanced in any particular instrument. I like to pick up what I can to integrate instruments into a song. Every instrument will give you a different color. But I don't feel I'm a virtuoso in any of them."
That curiosity and zeal for trying new things is apparent on Venegas' recently released Otra Cosa, which she produced along with Cachorro Lopez. And the childlike aplomb for music and performance was evident when a rather pregnant Venegas took the stage last night at Dolce Ultra Lounge, the latest identity to fill the ever-changing space where Billboard Live once stood.
Though she's in no condition these days to partake of the sponsor's wares, being pregnant hasn't dampened her ability to thrill a crowd, or her enjoyment of what she does. A downright bubbly-looking Venegas, who never seems quite as at ease as when she's onstage, bobbed from one end to the other, swapping acoustic guitar for electric piano, and sometimes content merely to approach the crowd holding her microphone and reaching to take fans' hands.
She went through a ample cross-section of her favorite hits, opening things up with previous album favs like "Algo Esta Cambiando" ("Something's Changing") and "Limon y Sal" ("Lemmon and Salt"), before moving into newer territory off her latest, like "Bien o Mal" ("Good or Bad"), and later, "Amores Platonicos" ("Platonic Loves") and "Debajo de mi Lengua" ("Under My Tongue"), which doesn't seem all that platonic at all. "Seria Feliz" ("I'd Be Happy") also showed up on the setlist. As did hit single "El Presente" ("The Present"), off her previous release, MTV Unplugged. And from Limon y Sal she also performed "Me Voy" ("I'm Leaving") and fan favorite originally featuring French-Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux, then Spanish lyrics-slinger Mala Rodriguez on Unplugged, "Eres Para Mi" ("You're For Me"). The two aforementioned vocalists absent, Julieta didn't hesitate to provide the rap verse herself.
Venegas vacated the stage for about two minutes before returning for an encore to close out, leaving fans with the title track for the 2000 film starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Amores Perros ("Amores Perros Me Van a Matar") and "Andar Conmigo."
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Personal Bias: Ever since I discovered Julieta in her Si era, I've considered her to be an incredibly talented musician. But she's only gotten better with each album since.
Random Detail: Julieta's drummer has the world's baddest, most gravity defying afro. It's like a giant, swaying, two-foot halo of curly hair. I missed your name homeboy, but rock on with your bad 'fro!
By The Way: I really think that, while these Jack Daniel's Studio No. 7 tours tend to be pretty cool, they'd exponentially better if they made with the free hooch