– The Ritz, Manchester –

Julia Jacklin

Julia Jacklin

‘Near, far, wherever you are…’, emotional words belted out by a packed crowd as Julia Jacklin takes to the stage at the Ritz, Celine Dion’s immortal Titanic theme blaring unexpectedly from the PA. It’s a fitting opening to what becomes a quietly epic Sunday night out at the Ritz in the company of one of Australia’s finest singer/songwriters. Jacklin is here in support of her stellar new album Pre Pleasure, released earlier this year, an all round lighter affair after the heavy, incredible Crushing in 2019. In a recent interview with the excellent Loud & Quiet, Jacklin said “The biggest thing was I wanted it to sound more joyful than my last record. I wanted it to feel a little less heavy. I wanted to make some music that was going to make me feel some sort of joy. Crushing was sad to play every night for two years. Just for myself, and for the crowd, I wanted some more generous sounding music to throw into the set”, a sentiment that certainly plays true tonight.

Post Celine sing-a-long, Jacklin is straight in with a solo rendition of ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ from her debut album, a startlingly stark way to open a show. Alone at the mic with her guitar, she cycles through the advice laded song, sometimes wry with humour (‘don’t let the kids win, just let them fall, you don’t want them growing up thinking two year olds are good at basketball’) sometimes shot through with poignancy (‘don’t let your grandmother die, while you’re away, a cheap trip to Thailand’s not going to make up for never getting to saying goodbye’), it’s a doozy of an opening gambit. After that, a full band joins her on stage and we’re treated to beefed up versions of mainly Pre Pleasure and Crushing tracks. Stand outs include a raucous version of ‘I Was Neon’, a bouncing ‘Lydia Wears a Cross’ (which gets a cheer when introduced, with Jacklin saying ‘yeah this one is good’ as an aside), and a rousing ‘Love, Try Not To Let Go’, which ends with the band in full flow, guitars and drums pummelling, piano banging, Jacklin’s voice soaring.

Jacklin is a delight to spend time with, funny and self deprecating. She thanks us for coming, acknowledging that there are loads of other options tonight (a weirdly packed schedule on a Sunday evening includes Faye Webster over the road, Bill Callahan, William Basinski, and Stella Donnelly to name a few), saying ‘thanks for choosing us, I hope we don’t disappoint’. She introduces ‘Pool Party’ after the upbeat ‘Love Try Not To Let Go’ with ‘don’t worry, this one is about Girl Guides, swimming, and depression’ to many cheers, and before the ‘encore’ which she pre-empts 4 songs prior (‘we’ll do three more, then pause and do another’ she sheepishly puts her fists up and chants ‘encore, encore’ along with the delighted crowd. It’s this humour that helps cut through the devastating moments. ‘Body’, about a relationship turned sour, ‘I’m not a good woman when you’re around’, which resolves into a meditation on revenge porn ‘do you still have that photograph, would you use it to hurt me?’ and ‘I guess it’s just my life, and it’s just my body’ repeated and repeated under a dark brooding sea of guitars, the crowd chanting along almost under their breath, it’s incredibly powerful. ‘Don’t Know How To Love You’ is dedicated to ‘anyone who has to break up with someone tomorrow’ to more cheers, and is no less devastating either, insecurities laid bare to a crowd of strangers: ‘what if I cleaned up, what if I worked on my skin? I could scrub until I am red, weak and thin, too tired to run away’ – it’s no wonder Jacklin wanted a bit of lightness after the heavy Crushing. Her voice is shot through with pain and experience, pure but almost cracked at points, soaring at others, frequently spine tingling.

She finishes with a perfect ‘Hay Plain’ from her debut, a song that grows and grows from solo beginning into a full band bombastic finish, it’s one of the more ‘country’ songs of hers and is a spectacular finish to a brilliant gig. At times light and delightful, at others heavy and sombre, it’s been quite the ride.

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