Julia Jacklin is an Australian singer-songwriter in the indie-folk vein, who I’ve liked ever since I first heard her debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win in 2016. We caught a glimpse of her show at End of the Road that year in a packed out Tipi Tent, as the rain hosed down outside. It was enough to pique my interest in her music, and Don’t Let the Kids Win became one of my favourite albums of that year. A wonderful combination of indie-pop and bluesy folk. Music you could move to and weep into your beer to – not at the same time! Over the years since I’ve seen her play more than most – eight times, when I looked back at previous reviews on this blog. One of many great concerts was at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2017, which she headlined. It was also the evening that I discovered Faye Webster, third on the bill that time, and another favourite ever since.
Don’t Let the Kids Win was followed by Crushing, another terrific album, in which Julia explored a broken relationship, her emergence from it, and her feelings as a woman in a male-dominated environment. A powerful, vulnerable and moving statement. And the source of maybe her finest song, Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You, a bluesy lament, with heartfelt lyrics and a couple of searing guitar solos. A highlight of every live show ever since.
This year she released her third album, Pre Pleasure. I found it quite subdued at first, a product of lockdown perhaps. But the songs have grown on me, and it has its rocking moments, notably I Am Neon. And beautifully sung, as always.
And so to the Roundhouse. Kath came along with me to this one. I thought she’d enjoy the music, the sentiment of the songs – and the seats! I was right, because it was an outstanding show – and we had a great view. As you do from most parts of the Roundhouse; it’s probably my favourite London venue. The concert began with Julia onstage on her own, for a rendition of one of her best-known songs, Don’t Let the Kids Win. Received warmly, if not rapturously, by the crowd. Maybe because it was quite a young gathering who aren’t that familiar with the first album? Who knows, but being able to fill the Roundhouse does suggest that she is gaining a new fan base, and that is likely to come from the more recent recordings. Interestingly, Faye Webster sold out Islington Assembly Hall the day before (when I was at Sigur Ros) – a much bigger venue that I have seen her play before. I was wondering whether both artists attracted more followers during pandemic, when their reflective, self-absorbed lyrics might have had a strong appeal.
After the opener, the band came on and the emphasis in the first half of the show was on songs from the new album, interspersed with a jaunty Pool Party and Body, the opener to Crushing, and one of Julia’s most intensely personal songs. The band were excellent, including the tall guitarist, whose name I still don’t know, but who has been playing with her for some time. He had his moment in the sun towards the end! I like the new tunes, though I’m still getting to know them. During one, Love, Try Not to Let Go, Kath whispered that the music sounded like Fleetwood Mac; and yes, I get that. A similar sense of melody and pop sensibility to that band during the great Rumours era.
So, it was all good; and best of all were the final four. Starting with Don’t Know How to Keeping Loving You. I love that song so much! So tender and then so exhilarating as the guitar lets rip – enter the tall guitarist! Two solos, inspired by Neil Young I’m sure. The highlight. I hope Julia always plays this song. It’s not typical of her music, but it many ways it is now her signature tune. The tempo then upped with I Am Neon from the new album; and then, as Julia wryly announced, the hits. Head Alone and Pressure to Party. The rock’n’roll – with a downbeat lyrical twist or two, of course.
She came back for a superb version of Hay Plain, from the first album. The sparse, bluesy beginnings, the build-up and the anguished climax. One of the songs in her repertoire that Indigo Sparke, recently reviewed here, might best relate to. A nice surprise that she chose that one for the finale. An uplifting end to a very satisfying concert, perhaps the best I’ve seen her perform. I certainly don’t intend it to be the last!