This Julia Holter article was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
The deep intimacy of Birmingham’s Glee Club makes for one amazing atmosphere. The venue itself has such ambience on its own, but adding to that ambience on 11th November was American singer Julia Holter. The artist has been touring her highly acclaimed fourth album ‘Have You in My Wilderness’.
The album in general has magnificent, breath-taking soundscapes which Holter uses to create a really gorgeous sense of dreaminess. The dreaminess merit holds up throughout the album, and it also holds up throughout her live shows; there is such beauty in her music, and everyone in attendance was ready to absorb that beauty.
Up first was Danish artist Søren Juul (formerly Indians)whose approach to performing is not unlike Julia Holter herself. There is somewhat of a classical touch to his sound, as his keyboard playing tends to dictate the flow of his songs and his performance. He is also backed up by more keyboard/synthesizer sounds and a percussion track, while projecting his charming voice. Juul is very talented, and in the context of this concert, he was a very fitting performer, an enjoyable opening act and everybody in attendance seemed to be interested in not only the music, but his stories regarding his life and career in between songs.
Julia Holter then took to the stage, alongside her band which included a double bass player, a viola player and a percussionist. Julia herself played keyboard throughout the set, which she did a mighty fine job of whist singing. Holter and band kicked their set off with ‘Silhouette’ from ‘Have You in My Wildness’.
One would wonder how the varied instrumentation of her recordings would translate to a concert, but the instruments fit remarkably well together live; the double bass took focus every now and then but still served as a unique means of rhythm, the viola was both sharp and majestic, and the percussion rarely stole focus but still sounded great as a pinnacle part of the band’s sound. ‘In the Green Wild’ from ‘Loud City Song’ followed, this song was great live; it was attention-grabbing and the varied structure of the song was executed really impressively.
Most songs were transitioned by in-between stories from Holter, giving the audience a bit of humorous insight into what the songs are about. She still scattered a few tracks from previous albums around but played a good few from ‘Have You in My Wildness’ – such as album opener ‘Feel You’, ‘Everytime Boots’ and ‘Vasquez’ with each song capturing its own intimate live emotion.
They stayed within their usual element, but some songs reached out a bit more, got heavier, and added more emphasis to specific instruments; sometimes when things got heavier, the double bass player would strum chords on his bass, creating a nice vibrant buzz, merging nicely with Julia’s keyboard chords. Amidst the hazy soundscape, the viola also became more resolute, at one point it took charge and became so mesmerizingly beautiful that Julia herself closed her eyes to soak in the moment.
An encore was played, an encore that included ‘Betsy on the Roof’, a larger-than-life ballad from the new album which cemented itself as a true tearjerker of a song when played live. This was followed by ‘Sea Calls Me Home’, which served as a short-but-sweet finale to the evening.
Julia Holter is an amazing talent and her live shows are magnificent. This show in particular would be a highlight in anyone’s concert-going year; a magical, moving experience.