Live Review – Julia Jacklin @ The Castle & Falcon

Julia Jacklin

The Castle & Falcon

Review by Ian Paget

Julia Jacklin – Photo: Denise Wilson

The awkward floor shape at the Castle & Falcon can sometimes make things a little uncomfortable when it’s full, and with a sell-out crowd for Australian singer Julia Jacklin’s Birmingham show, the venue twice have to resort to asking the crowd to shuffle forwards and occupy all of the space before her performance.

When Julia and her band begin to play, the audience fall silent to hear her sing opener ‘Body’ over the sparse instrumentation, and remain so for much of the set, focused solely on her breezy vocals and open lyrics. A lot of the early songs are downbeat slices of Americana-infused indie folk songs such as ‘Leadlight’ and ‘Motherland’ from Julia’s debut album ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’, but the majority of the set is pulled from her critically acclaimed second effort ‘Crushing’ and it’s those songs that seem to strike more of a chord with much of the audience, even as she sarcastically introduces ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ as a “party anthem”, dedicating the emotive ‘Turn Me Down’ to “all the Black Sabbath fans here tonight”.

Julia Jacklin – Photo: Denise Wilson

The slow pace and sombre feel of the set does make for quite an intense experience which can sometimes be difficult work, with the band stripped back even further for ‘When The Family Flies In’ and the largely solo ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’, but patience is rewarded with the likes of the livelier ‘You Were Right’ and finally ‘Pressure To Party’ to end things on a more upbeat note. There’s a wave of universal applause accompanying the band’s return to the stage for one last song in the shape of ‘Hay Plain’, which maybe embodies Julia’s approach best – a forlorn and fragile number which builds up into a swirling epic and really impresses, leaving a hugely positive atmosphere in the venue despite the melancholy nature of the performance.

Olympia is the stage name of Melbourne pop singer Olivia Bartley, and from the moment she quietly shuffles onstage armed only with her electric guitar and starts singing the unassuming ‘Biscuits’, she immediately has the attention of the crowd. Joined by the rest of her band for the accessible indie-pop of ‘Somewhere To Disappear’, she’s a warm and confident frontwoman with a fantastic vocal range and compelling new wave-inspired pop songs such as ‘Smoke Signals’ from her 2016 debut album ‘Self Talk’. Engaging the audience between songs with funny stories about learning to scuba dive and discovering TV’s Mr Blobby for the first time, Olympia quickly ensures that everyone is at ease to the point that when the fragile ‘Atlantis’ and new track ‘Nervous Riders’ crop up partway through the set it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear a more vulnerable side to the music.

Olympia – Photo: Denise Wilson

The crowd sound disappointed when it’s announced that there’s only a couple more songs left (“you were hoping that I’d talk more shit, weren’t you?”) but the best has evidently been saved for last with recent singles ‘Shoot To Forget’ and ‘Star City’ not a million miles away from the sunny pop-rock of Sunflower Bean. For many in the audience tonight will be their first introduction to Olympia’s music, but it’s unlikely to be their last.

Olympia – Photo: Denise Wilson

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