Gig review: Julia Jacklin at the Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

“I think I’m good / Will I be great?” ponders Julia Jacklin on the alt-country ‘Motherland’. It’s a question that this gig answers largely in the affirmativ

Julia Jacklin
Julia Jacklin

The Australian musician has already shown that she’s capable of musical progression, the quarter-life anxiety of her 2016 debut being replaced by existentialism on this year’s Crushing.

Inspired by the end of a long-term relationship, it forensically examines its disintegration and her fragmented sense of self.

These themes could easily turn into self-indulgence but her pithy lyrics routinely show a satisfying turn of phrase and sense of self-deprecation.

“I guess it’s just my life / And it’s just my body,” she observes drily on the sombre ‘Body’, based on a real-life incident about an ex-boyfriend taking a compromising photo. Elsewhere she becomes a casual observer on the mundanities of a shared life imploding, noting on ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ that, “every gift you buy me, I know what's inside.”

The lack of lyrical self-pity is also evident in her delivery. There’s vulnerability to ‘Turn Me Down’ and its kiss-off line (“Maybe I'll see you / In a supermarket sometime’”), but her vocal power and presence make it clear that she’s no-one’s victim.

As the track builds from sparse to rocking, she remains intense but centred with her eyes focused over the audience’s heads.

The literate nature of her song-writing means that storytelling is the focus rather than complicated arrangements. This means the presence of a four-piece band initially seems excessive yet, as the set progresses, the benefit of the dynamics they afford becomes apparent.

The quietly defiant solo reading of ‘Don’t Let The Kids Win’ contrasts with the blazing country-punk of ‘You Were Right’, while Harry Fuller’s soft piano playing on ‘When The Family Flies In’ adds a reflective quality to heartache.

There are a couple of lesser tracks, and her stage banter could be worked on, but while she’s not yet great, she does have the makings of an artist with staying power.