Julia Jacklin & Olympia – Yes, Manchester – 29th March 2019

Secret Meeting score: 80

by Philip Moss

Having made quite the storm down under, singer/songwriter, Olivia Bartley, is on British shores for the first time. Part Karen O, part St Vincent, the Ozzie songstress’ 2016 debut, Self Talk, picked up a nomination for the Australian Music Prize.

On a short run of UK dates with Julia Jacklin, Bartley – who made the conscious decision to present her art under the pseudonym, Olympia – is here to promote her new single, Shoot To Forget – the first taste of the sophomore album she’s currently still in the process of writing. And the new material certainly stands up as her best work in an already critically acclaimed back catalogue.

Olympia is enigmatic; with a beaming smile, her intersong chatter shows a more human side than her icy stare would suggest. The aforementioned Shoot To Forget is the most immediate number in her tight set. While closer, Star City – a one off single dropped last year, that will also presumably make the new record – demonstrates again that Olympia is a poptastic proposition, and it is another clear sign that her new album is shaping up as a must listen later this year.

On her fifth visit to Manchester (her fourth as a headline performer) in just 28 months, Julia Jacklin’s rapid rise could not be more exemplified. From her first show here in November 2016, as a support to Whitney at Gorilla, it was clear that Jacklin had something special. Opening tonight with Body – taken from her stunning new album, Crushing Jacklin emits a placid confidence; the LP’s opener swells and subtlety grows – hugely benefiting from her recently expanded to five piece band.

Of course, the show also features choice cuts from her debut, Don’t Let The Kids WinLead Light and Motherland are lovely reminders of the burgeoning talent who broke through. But it’s Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You, which is all chiming Telecasters, and When The Family Flies In – stripped to just piano and voice, and only enhanced by Georgia Mulligan’s fine harmony vocals – that display a new depth to her canon.

No matter where Jacklin’s career takes her, I can’t ever imagine a setlist where Pool Party isn’t a highlight, and it certainly is here. But tonight, it is the new material where Jacklin demonstrates to the sell out crowd the fine songwriter she has grown to become.

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