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(Photo by Deb Pelser)


Enmore Theatre, February 25

YOU CAN HIDE IN THE LIGHT, but they can still see you Julia Jacklin.

For song after song, Jacklin stood centrestage in a red neo-Little House On The Prairie dress (fashion-wise at least, the Sarah Blasko force is strong in this one) brightly lit but semi-obscured. A strip of strong, usually red, lights at ground level at the back of the stage pointed directly at the audience, not just searing eyeballs but leaving Jacklin’s face in shadow.

The tightly packed mob on the floor, who were roaring approval well before Jacklin and her band took to the stage, were frustrated. A personal connection isn’t a bonus with a Jacklin album or a Jacklin show; it’s the very point.

When she opened the night with lines of admonition for a lover foolishly smoking and speeding, and the declaration that “I’m making plans for my future/And I plan on you being in it”, half the room could easily hear themselves saying it. Later in the night when she sang, possibly to the same lover, “Don’t know how to keep loving you/Now that I know you so well”, you could almost feel the sighs of recognition from the other half.

Whether it was the bursts of intensity as everyone went from a yearning “love, love is all that I want” to a more needy “I will try not to let go”, and finally a throbbing approximation of joy, in Love, Try Not To Let Go (Jacklin shedding her guitar and even dancing a bit to its trotting rhythm), or the common unease beneath Body, here given a Velvet Underground-like drone that emphasised its shift from intensity to desperation, there was a communion.

(Guitarist Will Kidman brought the bent sound of '70s New York. Photo by Deb Pelser.)

After eight songs, the devotees finally began to yell out complaints, almost pleading for relief. But here’s the thing: even as she remained obscured, Jacklin was never anything but fully exposed. And fully connected.

The slow almost spectral folk of Pool Party, that found a meaty build to a guitar solo carrying echoes of the New York talisman, Television’s Tom Verlaine, was youthfully bare and tender; Turn Me Down admitted that “it’s a lot to ask of you to believe in me” then shifted from unsure to hard centred to assertive and finally to acceptance; and Neon’s vulnerability in lines like “I quite like the person that I am/Am I gonna lose myself again?” was progressively buoyed by the song being another that moved from Woodstock intimacy to the more brittle confidence and bent electric guitars of mid-‘70s Greenwich Village.

By the time the crowd involvement in Head Alone’s escalating tempo and tenor (a request for bodily autonomy becoming a demand for physical respect) helped turn the song into a self-fulfilling epic, there was no doubt really: they couldn’t always see her, but they always knew her.

A version of this review was first published by The Sydney Morning Herald.

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