For this month’s free Club EDA download, we journey back to the beginning of the 1999 Spirit World Tour, the most extensive full band tour of Jewel’s career. As one who likes the darker side of Jewel’s writing and particularly enjoys when she sings in her lowest register, I could think of no better example than “Barcelona,” a haunting song that explores her feelings of alienation and dislocation following the stratospheric success of her first album.
To put the song in context, we should first recall the summer of 1997, which was an exceptionally exciting time in Jewel’s career. Following the astounding success of the “You Were Meant For Me” single, Jewel, who was essentially a shy and somewhat introverted person, was now confronted with a literal bombardment of attention. She had gone from playing the club circuit and opening for higher profile artists the previous year, to suddenly being a major headliner, selling out 5 to 10,000 seater arenas all over North America. She had just been featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, and following that summer’s Lilith Fair tour, which had her performing before even larger audiences, she would find herself on the cover of Time magazine. Appearances on MTV Unplugged and VH1’s Hard Rock Live series also escalated her profile. Although it is inconceivable in today's music industry landscape, Jewel's first album was now selling 125,000 copies per week equating to well over 17,000 copies per day!
It was a headspinning time to be sure, but just as things were reaching a most fevered pitch, she embarked on a solo acoustic tour of Europe, where she was suddenly back to the starting point, playing in tiny clubs to often indifferent audiences. This tour was a particularly challenging and grueling one, where all the frills and success of North America suddenly vanished. She was also ill for a lot of the tour which made things even more difficult. For those of you familiar with her Life Uncommon DVD, the footage of Jewel all bundled up playing guitar in an icy cold hotel room and performing before noisy indifferent audiences was primarily shot on this particular tour.
“Barcelona” can be traced back to an exact moment on this tour and that was November 6, 1997, when Jewel explored the city and performed there that evening. The song began forming immediately afterwards and it would first surface four nights later at a performance in Ghent, Belgium, when she literally made most of it up live on stage. Just days after returning home to San Diego a couple of weeks later, it would get its North American debut when we snuck Jewel in for a surprise appearance before an intimate audience at the Thanksgiving week “Pajama Jam,” a private EDA event held at her old stomping grounds, Java Joe’s in Ocean Beach. It was initially logged as “Let It Rip, Let It Fly” due to some different lyrics at the time and then it wouldn’t be heard again until it came to full fruition on her “Spirit” album release a year later.
What intrigues me about this song is that it conveys the alienation, loneliness and confusion of that time in Jewel’s life and it does it with extremely vivid imagery. Lyric lines like "Me and my shadow are wrestling again," and "I hold myself hostage in the mirror" are perfect examples. The song also confronts the fact that we are often our own harshest critics and Jewel’s desire to feel better about herself is also conveyed here, particularly in the line "Loving someone else is always so much easier.” Jewel also utilizes her vocal range to dramatic effect on this song. The contrast between her lower register on the verses and her soaring voice on the chorus has always, in my opinion, made this song a very compelling listen. Despite the fact that the verses are quite turbulent and dark, the chorus’ defiant plea of “Let Me Fly” is ultimately uplifting.
Although the two solo acoustic performances were interesting, “Barcelona” is one song that became far more potent with her band. Coincidentally, the full band debut of this song occurred on the exact same day as our last download of “Jupiter,” February 11, 1999, when Jewel also performed a promotional concert at Medicine College in Madrid, Spain that was later broadcast on European radio and TV. That version of "Barcelona" was OK, but the band would take a few more weeks to fully jell and it became considerably stronger by the time the Spirit World Tour began in Australia a few weeks later.
Jewel’s band on this tour included the outstanding rhythm section of drummer Brady Blade and bassist Tony Hall, both veterans of Emmylou Harris’ great Spyboy band. Founding member of the group Mr. Mister, Steve George, played keyboards and would become the longest running musician of any of Jewel’s bands. Her friend and occasional songwriting collaborator, Steve Poltz, played rhythm guitar and in my opinion, the most talented and tasteful lead guitarist Jewel ever toured with, Doug Pettibone, was also on board for this tour.
Presented today is one of the earliest performances of "Barcelona" with that exceptional band. This version was recorded on the third night of the Spirit World Tour, when Jewel played the first of three consecutive nights at The Burswood Theater in Perth, Australia. In addition to this high quality live recording, a pdf file of Jewel’s handwritten lyrics are also included for you.
If you are already a registered member of jeweljk.com, simply log in to the community area and help yourself to the files here. If you are not yet registered, please register first here. Its free and easy. If you experience any technical difficulty, don't hesitate to ask for help at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ve missed any of our previous Club EDA downloads, all of them are still available, so you can help yourself to those files as well. For details on the previous downloads, you can access my previous blogs about them by clicking “Alan." In regards to our free downloads, we respectfully request that rather than share the free files elsewhere, that you do Jewel the favor of instead sharing the link to join her free Club EDA community, so that others can download the free files themselves. Please spread the word rather than the files and help Jewel build her online community. You can read her thoughts on this here.
Enjoy this month's free Club EDA download of "Barcelona" recorded February 28, 1999, on the third night of the Spirit World Tour at The Burswood Theater in Perth, Australia. Alan