Just over a year has past since we were crammed into the tiny O’Meara venue in the railway arches on the approach into London Bridge for Julia Jacklin to preview a bevy of new songs that were destined for her second LP Crushing.
In that time she doesn’t seemed to have stopped since the release in February and the end of a brilliant year culminates in what might be her biggest gig to date at the Kentish Town Forum.
There’s an endearing awkwardness that inhabits antipodean songstresses. It lives in Courtney Barnett and shines out of Julia, she embodies a shyness that you warm to and that she warms to and she relaxes and the between song patter grows. Stories of front rows that groan at the beginning of the staggering “bridge” for ‘Turn Me Down’ and the wankers in the early days of her career who invite her to theirs after an open mic night as they have “a full band set up at my place”.
She opens with ‘Comfort’, the closing track from her latest record, just her and a spot light that only gives away the bare outlines of Julia. The band arrive and so does ‘Body’, stark and fragile on tape it has grown muscles through 12 months of touring around the world but no less devastating.
The pinnacle is ‘Turn Me Down’ and the breakdown to the repeated, building refrain “why won’t you turn me down“ until she holds the final note for an eternity.
She learnt classically, which means she avoids the lazy pitfalls of some voices in contemporary pop and rock that can’t hold a candle to her range and cadences.
Up there in the pantheon of her best work are ‘You Were Right’ and ‘Head Alone’, both a higher tempo but more of a nuanced songwriting, the likes of ‘Body’ are about feel, about emotion and Julia can convey that better with three chords than most but those have an energy, an extra life force that gives it a driving rhythm.
She finishes the night with a cover of the Britney Spears ballad ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’ that she duets with Angie McMahon, who has supported her on the UK leg of the tour, which turns into a mass singalong. Naturally.
It feels like a celebration, that Britain has taken an Australian to our cold, miserable hearts, maybe because she exudes the hot southern hemisphere summer sun she has left back home that she will be flying home to tomorrow, whilst we wallow in a pre-Christmas, Brexit fueled General Election that is leaving yuletide cheer at a premium.
And that is it. End of the night, end of the tour, end of the year. A huge year for Julia that has reached new heights with the success of Crushing that has reached bigger audiences and bigger names as her duet with Lana Del Rey on the spell binding ‘I Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’ in the States last month attests.
She said she is going to take next year off to “drink and learn to dance”. She’ll probably make more music too.