Julia Jacklin @ Gorilla, Manchester, 8 Nov

Live Review by Gary Kaill | 21 Nov 2016

It's not that Julia Jacklin has to silence the doubters: the response to her recent debut Don't Let the Kids Win was overwhelmingly positive, lauding the depth and sophistication of her songwriting. Just one album in and her timeless musicality already has shades of the greats; its chronicling of a young life lived seemingly beyond its years a throwback to another era entirely. But tonight, she certainly has to convince the easily distracted as she and her excellent three-piece band take to the stage as support to headliners Whitney. It's forgivable enough (just) that no one has done their homework and that she's greeted with a room full of frowns. It's appalling, in a venue of this size, that significant numbers in the crowd simply continue to talk at volume as she teases the drawn-out intro to album high spot Hey Plain.

Much of the backstory of Don't Let the Kids Win is built on a personal history shaped by struggle, loss and – as ever – a sliver of luck. Fictional or autobiographical – and Jacklin's songs seem, like the best writing, to be formed from a blurry combination of the two – these songs carry an emotional truth that will find you out if you let them. The delicate Hey Plain and the noir lullaby of LA Dream (performed solo tonight to devastating effect) are not necessarily built for live performance but Jacklin and her band tend to their intricacies, deliver them with tender care. It's a set with a smartly pitched profile. The boisterous A Coming of Age is sandwiched between Leadlight and a glorious Motherland. The latter, all brooding elegance and soaring hook, is the cue for people in the rapidly filling hall to finally tune in.

Regardless, Jacklin's sure gaze looks over and beyond the crowd. Consumed by her music, she's properly focused and a skilled band leader. She warms as we warm and she precedes Pool Party by gently mocking drummer Tom Stephens (whose harmonies lift much of tonight's show) for "exercising and dancing" part in that song's promo video. Come the end, and a beautiful reading of the album's title track, Manchester has come around fully, and Jacklin exits to warm applause. But, to be fair, that's to her credit for having the enterprise and wit to silence us, rather than ours for finally waking the fuck up.