Julia Jacklin @ Castle and Falcon, 28 March 2019

The support act for tonight’s sold out gig is Olympia otherwise known as Olivia Jane Bartley, an Australian singer song writer. She comes on stage a lone figure bathed in light with an essence of Julee Cruise in Twin Peaks, playing electric guitar in a vibrant pink jumper holding the attention of the growing audience. As the song draws to a close she is joined by a bass player and drummer who add some depth to her quirky upbeat pop songs. Olympia uses her voice in a range of different ways including an aspect of call and response with herself in ‘Smoke Signals’ which demonstrates her capacity for changing sounds and range quickly. It is Olympia’s between song banter that really wins the audience over, varying discussion points including diving, Mr Blobby and confusing Richard Branson and Russell Brand. ‘Shoot to Forget’ ends this buoyant and optimistic set which has certainly won over some Birmingham based fans.

By the time Julia Jacklin takes to the stage, the venue is unsurprisingly packed as her latest album, Crushing, has received nothing but positive reviews in the music press. Jacklin begins with the sombre opener from the album, ‘Body,’ and noticeably the warmth of sound emanating from the musicians is immense.

The mellow nature of Julia’s vocals flow throughout the room, enchanting the audience and even reaching those at the back, drawing them into her world. One of the enticing qualities of Jacklin’s work is her expressive lyrical content with which she conjures up vivid images of emotions yet with fairly simplistic language that is easily accessible as a listener. This skill is evidenced in ‘Eastwick’ where she quietly sings about how uncomfortable she is showing her legs even in the Sydney summer before the song hits a dramatic crescendo of an ending, embracing distorted guitars as Jacklin leans away from the microphone, closes her eyes and truly wails with an unfounded beauty.

‘Leadlight,’ taken from her first album Don’t Let The Kids Win, reminds me of a female Richard Hawley as she provides a modern nod to nostalgia harnessing the vibe of Patsy Cline. Not as overtly funny as Olympia, Julia engages with the attentive audience between songs whether it be noting the strange onstage atmosphere which is probably a reaction to a particularly violent episode of Game Of Thrones that they have all just watched or joking that ‘I Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ is a real dancefloor filler, certainly she is an amiable character.

One of the surprises of the evening is the impact of ‘Turn Me Down’ in a live environment, as the dynamics were so powerful noticeably in the middle section where the song takes a dramatic turn after a brief moment of silence and the puissance of the vocals during the repetition of the song title are immeasurable. For ‘When The Family Flies In,’ some of the band exit leaving Julia, Harry who switches from bass to keyboard and Georgia who moves from keyboard to backing vocals and this stripped down collection of musicians accentuate the superb harmonies that are at play in enriching the song. The next song, ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win,’ sees Jacklin left alone on the stage to deliver an alluring performance that has the audience holding their breath for fear of interrupting the show.

The band return to complete the set which feature a number of her singles including the laid back ‘Pool Party’ and the phenomenally catchy ‘Head Alone’, that is three minutes of indie genius. After announcing that ‘Pressure To Party’ is the closest that the band get to Black Sabbath with the aside that her comment is an insult to heavy metal, the garage rock based riff brings a blinding set to an end with much appreciation from the audience. In fact, enough appreciation to bring the band back for a final song, ‘Hay Plain,’ which lacks the memorable hooks of the previous few tracks but has an intriguing swelling of instrumentation and vocals that make it a superb ending to a fantastic 75 minutes of music.

I can’t imagine I am going to have the privilege of seeing Julia Jacklin perform in such an intimate venue again as after tonight’s offering the excellent reviews are not solely restricted to the album, she can bring it live too.

 

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

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