On her debut album from last year, Julia Jacklin deservedly received plenty of praise for the body of work as a reflection of her own maturity. Both in her technical ability as a songwriter but also her wise-beyond-her-years lyrical observations on ambition, relationships and growing older. More than just making an initial splash, Don’t Let the Kids Win is an album that has endured and many, including myself, find themselves returning to it even with a new year well underway. This goes a long way to explaining why Jacklin’s return to Brighton, after initially piquing our interest at last year’s Great Escape, has sold out well in advance tonight.
During her set, support act Keto makes a point of letting the audience know how nervous she is at various points. Outside of these reminders however, there isn’t anything about her quietly assured performance that would suggest she’s anything other than totally at ease on stage. While sometimes she relies too heavily on that singing style all contemporary folk singers seem to have recently adopted, where they sound like they’re singing with a couple of pebbles in their mouths, her songs have the gentle flow of slow moving tides that allows you to be carried along with them effortlessly.
Jacklin herself proves to be a total natural performer, emerging on stage initially on her own and then shortly followed by her backing band after she first quiets the room to a hush. The rest of her band play with a lightness and restrain that shows they are well aware that their main job is to hold up and colour Jacklin’s songwriting without imposing on it. Frequently they slink off stage for songs where she is more than capable of holding the room’s attention with just her voice and a handful of chords.
Jackling gives us a sneak peek at a couple of new songs she has in the works and they emphasise a harder, rockier edge to her sound that also act as vehicles to demonstate the dark wit of her lyrics. A new track entitled ‘Eastwick,’ which we are informed is: “a sad song about ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in folk song form”, contains striking imagery in lines such as “I don’t want my father’s ashes / scattered on stranger’s couches”. Exposing the proximity that humour and tragedy often inhabit. She’s persuaded to come out for an encore and covers The Strokes’ classic track ‘Someday’. By slowing it right down, Jacklin is able to extract from the upbeat tempo of the original the same intense nostalgia and melancholy but also the comforting warmth that makes her own music and live performances so softly and absolutely enthralling.