6th November | The Lantern

As Julien Baker takes to the stage, the sold-out room of The Lantern ready to receive, a particularly excited reveller only has to gleefully say “she’s so little!” to send the crowd and performer alike into fits of laughter, Baker in particular enraptured by the situation. “I was going to start this one off with a really solemn, atmospheric introduction…” Julien dryly explains, showing such a charismatic and natural side that also comes across on record. It comes to define Baker’s music in droves, harrowingly personal and unapologetic, it is soul-bearing, uplifting and heartbreaking all in equal measure, and live, with Julien standing alone on a stage. It is at its most cathartic.

She Makes War opens the evening to a warm, busy crowd. Also performing solo this evening, Laura Kidd brings an interactive and eclectic set that exhibits the varying elements of her multi-faceted notions with mixed effects. When soliciting a brooding, gothic pop sound with just an electric guitar and a lingering drawl, Kidd displays a penchant for something more focused and foundational, but it doesn’t possess She Makes War’s best capabilities. It’s when Kidd introduces a loop pedal into the procession and uses a powerful range of voice that the really interesting functions of the music come to the fore. At one point, with a megaphone in hand, Kidd steps into the audience and stalks the floor, intensifying the anxiety felt with the music and displaying the rich social and personal commentary that carefully unveils itself as Kidd’s message is spread. The consistent change between each identity is slightly jarring, a folk punk song about our country’s unideal opinions on immigration is endearing yet ultimately unmoving in its quite jovial rhythm, yet when again exploring traditional rhythm with just the use of vocal. It’s enticing and spontaneous, an intriguing approach that really does leave a mark.

With second album Turn Out the Lights┬áreleased less than a week before, this show was an opportunity to see Julien Baker perform some of these songs for the first time, especially in the UK, and it feels like a gift. What’s evident immediately as Baker plucks the swelling notes of ‘Appointments’, is how the songs have matured even further, something perhaps many didn’t think possible having heard the glaringly detailed naturality of ‘Sprained Ankle’. Yet here it all stands, from one heart-wrenching song to the next, Julien entranced and vivid as if performing for the last time, possessing a voice that you feel could carry for miles or somewhere as deep as the quiet room in your mind where your own thoughts are mustered. ‘Happy To Be Here’ yearns for control and change, but it’s constant hum of muted guitar notes silence such fantasies, building for Julien’s heartbreaking refrain of “Well I heard there’s a fix for everything, then why not me?”

A seamless combination of compositions from both records, the toughest moments from the new album – the fighting ‘Hurt Less’, ‘Sour Breath’s startling intimacy – compliment the heart-held favourites from before, and so as Baker takes to the piano and follows with the soul wrenching wishes of ‘Go Home’, its where you realise just how well Julien uses the silence in between the truly beautiful sounds they create. The collective unity of such music and its natural impact may be slightly disrupted by a few over zealous crowd members, but it can’t impact on just how empowering a live performer Julien Baker is, and as they close with ‘Something’, despite being one of hundreds in the room, you can hear the footsteps that trace along the narrative, such a captivating voice spelling out every word and capturing with spellbinding, wholesome power.

Check out the video for ‘Turn Out The Lights’ below.