Julia Jacklin, gig review: ‘Leaves you a quivering, but heartened, wreck’

Julia Jacklin. Picture: Shervin Lainez

Julia Jacklin. Picture: Shervin Lainez - Credit: Archant

Merely one album into her career, Jacklin applies poise and grace to her forlorn tunes

Early into her beguiling set, Australian troubadour Julia Jacklin proffers a telling line. During Motherland, with a spine tingling pine into the microphone, she repeats the words “Will I be great?” Whilst delivered with an aching fragility on record and in person, on paper it can also be perceived as a defiant rhetorical question.

A capacity crowd at London’s Scala certainly observes her performance with the sort of hushed reverence you’d normally associate with Sunday mass. Merely one album into her career, Jacklin applies poise and grace to her forlorn tunes, offering a country-inflected, indie sound that eschews cliché.

And yet there’s something about her that harks back to the sound of yesteryear. Maybe it’s the hint of Patsy Cline in the spectral beauty of her voice.

Her backing band proves to be adept at restraint. There’s a nagging feeling that they are holding back, keeping the reigns in so not to overshadow the main attraction.


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And she is a main attraction. Whilst some might accuse the consistency of her minor chord material as being a tiny bit maudlin, she offers examples of another Jacklin with the likes of Coming of Age; a song cut from a different cloth altogether and a shining example of what she can do when she branches out and doesn’t paint from her own brand of primary colours.

Its infectious chug offers momentary respite, but she soon knuckles down for more familiar territory, as Pool Party glistens with its 50s-style guitar chime.

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One of the striking things about the Julia Jacklin live experience is her canny way with a lyrical couplet. Her words ooze touching homespun philosophy and no better is this showcased than in the penultimate song: a solo rendition of album title track Don’t Let The Kids Win, which is possibly the best of the night.

A cover of the Strokes’ Sometimes closes proceedings, and even though it never threatens to surpass the original by being, as it is, recast here as a low velocity dirge, it never loses its melodic magic.

You could say that the measure of a great artist is if they can strip away the throngs of people around you and make you feel as though you are one-on-one with them as they peer into your soul. It’s a rare gift.

On this display, Jacklin proves she has the tools to chisel away and leave you a quivering, but heartened, wreck.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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