On her latest album Pre Pleasure, Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin tracks different threads of sex, love and spirituality with lyrical vulnerability, evocative instrumentation and her signature understated intimacy. Performed live, Jacklin’s confessional tracks translated to an intimate evening at the Fillmore on Oct 4.
Before Jacklin’s set, opener Katy Kirby charmed the audience with her awkwardly charismatic speaking, which was juxtaposed with her crisp, clear and melancholic vocals as she played stripped-down versions “Fireman,” “Juniper” and several unreleased tracks, such as “Blue Raspberry.” Blue stage lights enveloped Kirby and her guitar as she sang about relationships and being an “ex-vangelical.”
After Kirby concluded her set with a song called “Portals,” the blue-tinted lights of the Fillmore dimmed to black and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” blasted through the room. To this unexpected and never-quite-explained “Titanic” soundtrack, Jacklin entered the stage in a maroon skirt suit and loafers and played “Don’t Let the Kids Win,” the titular track from her 2016 debut album, on her guitar. Still alone with her electric guitar, she started a solo version of “Be Careful With Yourself” from her latest release, and she was joined by her full band after the first chorus, rounding out a properly dramatic introduction to the show.
“I had a dream last night that I only sold 40 tickets,” Jacklin said, causing a ripple of laughter from the packed floor. Then, she launched into “I Was Neon,” first saying, “This next song is a rock song.”
Jacklin’s vocals were a highlight of her live performance, as she belted out familiar choruses and sang impressive ad-libs with an ease that was almost deceptive. Specifically, during tracks where she shed the guitar, such as “Ignore Tenderness” and “End of a Friendship,” Jacklin’s vocals met the quality of — and even outshined — studio recordings. Though she joked about the feelings of deception she feels when it comes to presenting oneself to a crowd as a “rock star,” her stage presence did all the talking for her: She’s cool, and she makes it look easy.
The set list provided a balanced look at Jacklin’s discography, splitting time between Pre Pleasure and her 2019 breakout Crushing, while still allowing a few nostalgic returns to her 2016 debut, notably “Pool Party.”
Although Jacklin’s musical sensibility heavily embraces the mellow and confessional, she kept audiences tuned in by balancing softer tracks, such as “Good Guy” and “Moviegoer,” with her higher energy songs, including “Love, Try Not to Let Go.” During her performance of “End of a Friendship,” a disco ball illuminated the floor, highlighting the slow danceability of Jacklin’s sonic world.
Similar to Kirby, Jacklin introduced songs and stalled time as she tuned her guitar by interacting with the audience and providing quips. “This one’s for everybody who’s about to break up with someone,” she offered before “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You;” “This one’s about sex, woo!” she announced before “Ignore Tenderness.” She meandered between topics ranging from tour buses, periods, Tom Jones and Dairy Queen. Her matter-of-fact humility humorously contrasted with enthusiastic declarations of love thrown at her by the audience at several points throughout the night.
The night concluded with a victory lap of fan favorites, as Jacklin played “Head Alone” and “Pressure to Party” from Crushing, singing above an audience that knew every word. Her self-led encore was “Hay Plain” from her debut album.
Jacklin’s live performance reflects her strengths as a writer and musician: Her understated approach and authenticity allow her to tactfully unwind complex human emotions in a way that is deeply personal yet widely relatable. Seeing this gift on display is a treat for new and old fans alike.