Julia Jacklin performed at Forum Melbourne on Wednesday, 1st March. Dylan Hyde reviews.
Julia Jacklin wandered on stage to rapturous applause at the second of two sold-out performances at Forum Melbourne before courting her audience under the venue’s enchanting cerulean blue ceiling. She wore a crimson folklore gown – a dress, she told us, that her brother made for her. The same brother, perhaps, that she sings about in ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’: “Don’t let your brother stop thinking you’re cool” even though “he’s got a girlfriend now and he’s taller.” But Jacklin no longer cares to be cool.
Julia Jacklin – ‘Ignore Tenderness’ (Live on KEXP)
She’s so quietly spoken that it was difficult to hear her generous between-song chatter, but the diction of her lyrics, where the real conversation takes place, was crystal clear. Jacklin’s quirky and candid confessionals grapple cleverly and without pretence with millennial uncertainty and day-to-day struggles.
She opened with ‘Be Careful with Yourself’, one of seven tracks lifted from her third solo album, last year’s PRE PLEASURE, a journey through sex, trauma and the fallibility of faith. Her 2020 single, ‘to Perth, before the border closes’, was next, a song about a hasty retreat to Australia and “that city that held me” towards the end of a world tour as the pandemic hit. Like many Julia Jacklin songs, it’s about leaving things behind and chasing an uncharted future in which “everything changes”.
The impressive band never overwhelmed Jacklin’s clarity; guitar, keyboards and percussion perfectly accompanied her vocal range and staccato. The crowd lavished a special affection on the only male member of the band, the virtuosic Canadian guitarist Will Kidman, who elegantly turned his back on the audience whenever he soared into a twisting, symphonic lead break.
The performances of ‘Love, Try Not to Let Go’, with its guitar licks redolent of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, Jacklin’s voice every bit as crystalline as Stevie Nicks; ‘Moviegoer’, with its shades of Lou Reed’s ‘Coney Island Baby’; ‘Body’, its rhythmic drumming segueing into Jacklin’s divine guitar strumming; ‘Ignore Tenderness’, a candid song about sex; and ‘Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You’, one of five tracks she played from her 2019 album Crushing, were particularly mesmerising.
Following ‘Lydia Wears a Cross’, another song about grappling with faith (“I’d be a believer if it was all just song and dance”), Jacklin arrived at “the part where you do all the singles.”
“The rest of the songs are rock songs.” she told us, and the tempo cranked up with ‘I Was Neon’ and ‘Head Alone’. The latter is a plea for space during the claustrophobia of touring, and Jacklin invited the audience to sing its anthemic chorus: “I don’t want to be touched all the time / I raise my body up to be mine.”
The elated crowd also joined her on ‘Pressure to Party’ before the band filed off, leaving Jacklin alone on stage calling for her encore. She concluded with a solo rendition of ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ from her debut album, a cautionary tale about lost opportunity. “Just let them lose / Just let them fall”, she sang. “They’re not gonna learn anything if that’s the way you choose to play.”
Jacklin’s enchanting guitar wound down to a silence that seemed to hang for some time, the din of the large venue and the hubbub of the bar now completely stifled as all eyes focused on her, until the audience erupted in applause.