A soft orange-red spotlight abruptly switched on as a solo Julia Jacklin walked out in a red and pink floral dress, low pigtail braids resting on her shoulders. The applause softens as she picks “Julia’s guitar” and she offers a modest hello before diving into a studied strum.  

Jacklin, an Australian singer-songwriter, opened for Mitski for four sold-out Chicago shows at the Auditorium Theater—a large, beautiful, seated-venue in the South Loop. Though Jacklin’s music and stage presence is best suited for a smaller, more intimate venue, the theater offered a gorgeous setting for her harrowing vocalization. Her soft hums and melodies bounced off the walls with pristine acoustics. 

I have been trying for quite some time to see Jacklin live, ever since the success of her second studio album Crushing, which features indie anthems such as Pressure to Party. The tour dates never lined up for me, and I was forced to take in her music through videos online and on vinyl. Her headline tour in 2022 for her third studio album PRE PLEASURE didn’t even line up, as her Boston show was postponed and moved to a later date. 

At last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, I finally had the chance to hear her sing my favorite songs—only for her set to get postponed because of rain and lightning. When the festival opened, she played around five songs. I booked it to the stage she was on with pizza hanging out of my mouth. This year’s experience at the Auditorium Theater was a bit less stressful, to say the least.  

Julia Jacklin
Julia Jacklin at Pitchfork Music Festival Chicago in 2023. Photo by Kendall Polidori

Jacklin’s songwriting is simultaneously devastating and hopeful. She writes and sings softly about heartbreak, the obliqueness of everyday life, and finding comfort and power in intimacy and agency. Her solo sets are particularly mellow, yet her voice holds the power to garner everyone’s attention. The alternative folk-pop maintains a complex dreaminess, and strong melodies snap listeners back to reality.  

In between opening shows for Mitski’s U.S. tour, Jacklin is performing a handful of residency shows in LA, New York and Las Vegas. The shows are meant to allow time and space to enjoy each city, explore new ways of performing and connecting with the crowd, and ultimately feed into inspiration for more writing and recording.  

The solo set scratches the itch I had to see Jacklin for years, but it also tugs at my need and curiosity to hear her play a full-band set. Seeing Jacklin made me think of solo performances of Joni Mitchell, though Jacklin’s voice has a bit more vibrato. 

Seeing Jacklin live will leave you wanting more. And as someone who doesn’t tour the U.S. as often as I wish she would, attending one of her shows is a special occurrence that feels like its solely for you.  

Start with Jacklin’s song Head Alone and you might pick up on her fierce honesty and vocal variety.  

Pay attention to how Jacklin uses her vocal range to craft the story of her lyricism. She allows herself to get loose and fill up more room with her voice to illustrate the arc of her story.  

Kendall Polidori is The RockhoundLuckbox‘s resident rock music critic. Follow her reviews on Instagram and Twitter. @rockhoundlb