Juliette and the Licks Rock Manchester Academy

Biking to a gig generally precludes the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. Still, I wasn't intending to watch Humanzi and the other support acts without some kind of beverage. After realising I had no cash, I dashed from the Academy to the nearest cash machine and back. On my return I turned around to the sound of a female, American accent. Someone was having a barney with the bouncers. To my surprise it turned out the be Juliette Lewis herself, complaining that she was in the show. Sadly, before I had chance to ask where her crossbow was, she had already been ushered to her dressing room.

Having not seen Juliette and the Licks before, I decided to chat up some girls who were clearly bigger fans than I, in order to gain some background. One lass stated that she'd seen them four times, each time with the bigger crowd. Another said that The Licks performed brilliantly at Reading 2004. So far, so good I thought. There were plenty of hard-core fans in attendance, with feathers in their hair, Juliette style.

Ms Lewis enters the stage wearing her usual feathers, training top and leather trousers. Immediately, that rock 'n roll feeling pours off the stage. Initially, I was sceptical about the actual band behind Ms Lewis, thinking they'd melt behind her stage presence. The fact of the matter is, they are most certainly on an equal footing, if not more so. Each guitar spent an equal amount of time above the respective guitarist's head as it did below. Not only were the band confident, they clearly enjoyed the experience and didn't let themselves be beaten by Juliette's stage theatrics.

When "Hot Kiss" came around, I was expecting a lot more from the crowd Surprisingly, few people were up and jumping. This trend continued throughout the gig with a few exceptions. It seemed a shame since this band can certainly rock. I get the feeling that the lack in variety of songs and the similar sound throughout could bore some people. "Purgatory Blues" certainly didn't come across very well, with most people disinterested.

Thankfully, a large portion of the set came from the original Licks record. My personal favourite "I Never Got To Tell You What I Wanted To" sounded excellent, along with "Money In My Pocket". "American Boy" managed to get the crowd bouncing finally, with a huge round of applause. The older songs certainly proved a bigger hit with the crowd. Despite the lack of movement, the cheers were definitely there. "Got Love to Kill" changed this, with its faster pace.

Juliette certainly cuts it as an excellent front woman with the right rock attitude. As well as giving much love to the front of the crowd, her talking was minimal, yet funny. Her solo vocal section at the begining of "So Amazing" was extended and was as cute as it was impressive. As expected, the band finished with "You're Speaking My Language". Finally, a pint was thrown over the crowd and everyone started surging towards the front.

Something is missing from Juliette and the Licks. Sure, there are some hard-core fans, they can play very well, have the style and the presence but something feels a little flat here and there. As a live band, they sound as good as they do on record and they are fun to watch. Sadly, Juliette didn't do anything quite so mad this time like stripping down naked or stage diving. Despite the occasional flat feeling, the gig proved that it's not all about Ms Lewis.