If one were to walk quickly past The Old Bar on Sunday evening, they would have been forgiven for not knowing that one of Australia's finest musicians was about to play a set inside; the intense hush that hovered over the place wouldn't have disturbed oblivious bypassers but to be within its environs was to lay witness to the surprise set of Julia Jacklin, the sort of talent able to leave her audience in rapturous silence.
Jacklin released her second studio album 'Crushing' earlier this year to high acclaim and has deservedly raised her profile both here and abroad. It's a collection of indie folk in the rich vein of Laura Marling and Joni Mitchell: the aching and honesty she exudes in her lyrics and vocals can often be overwhelming. An examination of relationships and the crises that explode from them, even though it only stretches to ten songs, the contained heartbreak feels much larger.
It's not hard to understand why Jacklin's generation have attached themselves to the work in adoration either. Her lyrics innately understand the woes of modern relationships. On 'Body', she frets over an ex-partner using a revealing picture of her in an abusive manner; 'Pressure To Party' encapsulates the anxieties of having to be performative in social situations, something which must be a particular struggle for a public figure.
And yet, at The Old Bar, Jacklin is happy, rightfully and wonderfully so. She has been touring 'Crushing' around the world to packed venues of devoted people. When she announced this special and surprise gig on Sunday, the clamour for tickets led to it selling out within hours despite little to no publicity; who, in this position, wouldn't be completely boosted and inspired?
The atmosphere is welcomingly warm throughout the set and Jacklin seems to relish the opportunity to put on such an intimate local performance after the stresses of a larger tour. Close friends and collaborators are invited up for several performances, including the wonderful Angie McMahon to close proceedings. The whole thing is supremely relaxed (and befitting of a balmy Sunday evening concert).
Aside from playing highlights like 'Comfort' and 'Don't Know How To Keep Loving You' from her latest release, Jacklin implants some surprises, including an excellent cover of The Cranberries. She even introduces a specially written Christmas song for the occasion.
Wonderful support was also provided by singer-songwriters Mimi Gilbert and Merpire, whose soulful sets captured the audience's respectful attention and justifiably so.
This was Jacklin's last performance before a well-earned holiday for Christmas but her touring will start anew in January and will see her return to Melbourne on February 28th; playing to a much larger venue and surely accompanied by some equally great new material, it's a performance that anyone would do well to find themselves at.
Lastly, it should also be noted that - at this time of giving - all the proceeds from the gig went to Safe Steps, Victoria's 24/7 family violence support service.