Music review: Julia Jacklin, Adelaide Festival

Indie-folk songs charm the Adelaidian audience.

It was evident from the moment she walked on stage to ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that Julia Jacklin is not afraid to get sentimental. 

For the last show of the Australian leg of her PRE PLEASURE tour, the Blue Mountains-born singer-songwriter charmed Adelaide fans at the Hindley Street Music Hall with her melting vocals and catalogue of achingly relatable indie-folk hits. It was a mellow Sunday evening: stormy outside, warm within and perfect for the big feelings that well up when Jacklin starts singing. ‘I’m going to cry’ was a frequent hushed refrain from those gathered to watch (as was ‘voice of an angel’).

It wasn’t just the voice, either. Singing with eyes closed under a golden spotlight, in a puff-sleeved prairie dress the red and white of a choirboy’s uniform, there was more than a hint of the otherworldly about Jacklin. When talking to the crowd, she was softly spoken, gracious, a bit detached, but deadpan funny. 

Ethereal though her presence may be, her lyrics reveal someone fascinated by the messy, all-too-human reality of navigating complex relationships. Performing songs from her latest album, she sang about losing faith (‘Lydia Wears a Cross’), losing friends (‘End of a Friendship’) and the fear of losing someone you love (‘Be Careful With Yourself’). The power of these tracks comes not just from their raw relatability, but from the poetry of her words. In ‘Ignore Tenderness’ she describes the process of unravelling ingrained narratives about desire and consent: ‘Beneath the sheets, you’re just a cave / A plastic bucket or a grave.’ 

Her songs are made up of introspective thoughts, but also of melodies that stick in your head for days, choruses that a crowd can shout along to (‘I don’t want to be touched all the time / I raised my body up to be mine!’) and guitar riffs that get everyone dancing. The setlist built its way up from tender songs of loss to more upbeat numbers such as ‘I Was Neon’ and ‘Pressure to Party’. 

Jacklin, a guitarist herself, was also joined on stage by her band, who performed with her until her encore song. For ‘Don’t Let the Kids Win’ (the final track on her first album and, in Jacklin’s words, ‘a sentimental classic’), it was just the singer and her guitar. This stripped back, slowed-down version had more than one listener making good on their prediction of tears. 

Melbourne band RVG, led by frontwoman Romy Vager (who charmed the crowd with tales of her Adelaide upbringing), have been supporting Jacklin throughout her tour. In some ways their post-punk sound contrasts with Jacklin’s confessional indie-folk, but they share with her a talent for thoughtful lyrics and storytelling through song. 

Read: Theatre review: A Little Life, Adelaide Festival

It was a memorable night of music, and an excellent choice to include these exciting Australian artists as part of this year’s Adelaide Festival line-up. 

Julia Jacklin with RVG
Hindley Street Music Hall

Julia Jacklin performed for one night only on 5 March 2023 as part of Adelaide Festival

Megan Koch is a writer and bookseller based in Adelaide. She studied English and Applied Linguistics at Flinders University.