“I have a lot of obstacles in my life. We’re going to attack them like tigers.”
While Julia Holter’s most recent album, Have You In My Wilderness, exists in a hazy, harpsichord-soundtracked world of clean air and ebbing tides, the Julia Holter stood before us at The Lantern is far more flesh and blood. With the subtle imagery of her videos stripped away, Holter slips out of her straight face and prefers to chat about scones – in fact, just that afternoon she’s had the best one of her life, “with an egg sandwich on top”.
This easy banter is an early indicator of Holter’s effortless, if unpredictable, stage presence. At points she leans conspiratorially into the crowd like a lounge singer, her wrist lolling at her throat, a white wine in hand. At others, she’s angry, smashing at the keys of her Korg with her brow furrowed and voice utterly determined. It’s impossible to predict what atmosphere the next song will embody, keeping the audience enthralled throughout.
Opener Sea Calls Me Home starts innocuously enough, with Holter’s impeccable voice kept high in the mix and the classical talents of a cellist, double bass player, and drummer to bolster her. However, as the jazzy breakdown of the album is made live, it sounds like its been chewed by a glitch-loving demon. Happily, this becomes the trend – Holter’s voice rising above all, and the accompaniments becoming more dramatic as the songs proceed.
Holter has a dry, self-deprecating wit that she uses to introduce her songs (“Who wants to hear a song about obsession?” she cheerily calls out before descending into Silhouette), a trait that is met with wry chuckles from the older blokes and a scatter of trendy thirty-somethings of the audience, but while there is laughter and playfulness weaved into Holter’s set, the audience becomes completely rapt when Holter commands her impressive vocal scale.
While the focal point is definitively Julia’s, she also pauses to listen to her team of musicians, tipping her head and closing her eyes in appreciation. As she leaves the stage for the first time, the polite crowd turns defiant, demanding another song. “One more for y’all”, she sweetly says as she enraptures the crowd all over again.