A beautiful example of folk music’s emotionally devastating potential
Matty Pywell
15:31 3rd December 2019

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A full house attended Julia Jacklin’s seminar of folk rock - a set themed by exacerbated relationships and the occasional foray into melancholy - at Manchester’s Gorilla last night (2 December). 

The show feels like a celebration of every facet of Jacklin’s second album Crushing, released back in February and a hot tip for many best albums of the year lists. She appears solo on stage, under a single spotlight to deliver a rendition of 'Comfort'. The room instantly hushed, everyone desperate to hear each strain of Jacklin’s vocals in complete clarity. As she looks to the ceiling, she glares as if to address the ex-partner in the lyrics directly. 

The room is in a complete melodic sway as she weaves her narratives, her lyricism one of Jacklin’s strongest attributes - evidenced in 'Body', a song that sees a man becoming a corrupting influence on Jacklin, altering her personality and holding her self-image hostage. Every note of 'Turn Me Down' is sung with an unwavering sincerity, the repeated part of the bridge “oh please, just turn me down” rises in pitch steadily until reaching its boiling point, wherein Jacklin releases a high note that would probably register on the Richter scale.

There’s a sense that Julia Jacklin would jump into making a rock album in a heartbeat, performing cliché rock star poses before beginning tracks with her tongue outstretched. One of her furthest ventures into the sphere of rock is during 'Cold Caller', the guitars becoming incredibly evocative, hopping between momentary giddiness and textures of Sunday sunrises. She finishes off the song 'Pool Party' with both arms raised in the air, fists clenched proclaiming, “we’re a rock band!”

“You can love somebody without using your hands” becomes the night’s rallying cry, as the set reaches its climax with 'Head Alone'. It feels like a release of utter frustration, as if giving the room a detox of pent up anger. A quick count to four and they go straight into 'Pressure To Party', which explores societal expectations of how people are expected to react to breakups.

Julia Jacklin’s live set is crowned by the performance of 'Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You', the emotional magnum opus that can turn anyone into a gooey mess that needs to be held. Perfectly capturing the daunting overfamiliarity that can be the downfall of many a relationship, the riffs have an extra fizz during the live performance that mimics a stifled cry, a beautiful example of folk music’s emotionally devastating potential. 

Julia Jacklin inspired and astounded with a set that featured a stunning and consistent vocal performance, with pathways that led to emotionally charged folk music and forays into indie rock that came laced with a palpable mixture of fury and pain. The narratives of societal expectations and one-sided relationships were felt, accepted and interpreted willingly by an adoring audience.

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Photo: Nick McKinlay/Press