Julia Jacklin sings heavy-hearted, dreamy opening set at Hearst Greek Theatre

Jenna Wong/Staff
Julia Jacklin opened for Lord Huron (pictured above) with a dreamy set.

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Perched atop the UC Berkeley campus, folk singers Shakey Graves and Lord Huron paid a visit to the scenic Hearst Greek Theatre, with special guest indie singer Julia Jacklin opening for them on their Vide Noir tour. With bustling fans eager to hear Lord Huron’s romantic “The Night We Met” and more, the pressure on Jacklin was lessened. However, in the brief time she had onstage, Jacklin proved that openers can leave a lasting emotional impression on a crowd’s heart. Many audience members had not yet heard of Jacklin, making her performance a pleasant surprise and an atmospheric night as the sun set while she sang. 

Jacklin recalled the first time that she came to the United States from the Blue Mountains in Australia and attended an Emmylou Harris concert at the Greek Theatre. She was 22 and inspired, and she imagined what it might be like to play music herself someday. Now 28, she happily described getting to play at the Greek Theatre herself as a “wholesome” story she can proudly tell. Her down-to-earth persona carried into her emotionally driven songs, each journaling the stories of her life.

Jacklin gained much-deserved recognition after the release of her most recent album, Crushing, this past February. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, she describes her songs as a way of “processing (her) life” and honoring the pieces of her past. Each song follows both her mental and physical experience of detachment from her body and its space in the world, along with her confidence in a romantic relationship and in life. 

In 2016, Jacklin released her first album, titled Don’t Let the Kids Win, transitioning from a lesser-known artist working at an essential oils factory to a driven performer ready to tour the world. In an interview with the 13th Floor, she explains that she first entered the musical world with classical singing lessons during her childhood and later picked up the guitar at 20 when she joined the band of one of her friends. As she sang “Don’t Let the Kids Win,” a song about how our relationships with people will inevitably change, she detailed in her lyrics the need to stay close with her family and friends as she copes with the passage of time.

Jacklin not only brought style to her outfit — a bright plaid skirt and a simple blue sweater — but also to her voice, effortlessly managing to light up the theater. The clarity in her sound and the earnestness in her narrations were evident in songs such as “Body,” a solemn, intimate piece that doesn’t hurry, giving itself enough time to sink into the heart of the listener. Several expressed how impressed they were with Jacklin. One audience member praised how “strong she was by herself. Typically, singer-songwriters use an acoustic guitar, and she chose to play an electric guitar. She really stood her ground and held such a strong presence on her own.” 

In “Pressure to Party,” the pairing of Jacklin’s repetition of the long list of pressures following a breakup and her breathless, urgent vocals created a heartbreaking anthem expressing a need for freedom that many could identify with. Her projection across the wide space filled the darkening sky with a warm, melancholy spirit as she sang, “I know I’ve locked myself in my room / But I’ll open up the door and try to love again soon.”

In the fleeting 20 minutes that Jacklin had to express herself, she did so elegantly. She stood out that night among the jolly performers who followed simply because of the confidence she had in being vulnerable. Each song she sang drew people closer into the intimacy of her thoughts and empowered both herself and her listeners. It was evident in the strength of her lyrics and the resiliency in her voice that Crushing was a liberating reclamation of her life, as art often serves to be.

Contact Alison Church at [email protected].