Live Review: Julia Holter creates magic at the Rosemount Hotel
Julia Holter’s music on record can be a lot to take in. That is especially true on her latest record, Aviary, a baroque pop record with a heady mix of experimental soundscapes that is as equally beautiful as it is challenging. However, as perfect as it can sound on record, it all crystallises live, as her set at the Rosemount Hotel on the 16th of January proved.
A couple of local acts kicked off proceedings. Jacob Diamond was first to take stage, winning over the early crowd with his soulful voice and impossibly beautiful guitar sounds. His knack for crowd interaction, like introducing his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’ by saying, “Here’s a song I didn’t write, there are a few of those,” won him the crowd’s appreciation. Felicity Groom took stage soon after, performing a song or two from a new upcoming album alongside some older favourites. The booming drums and tight bass complimented her sound beautifully, giving her set a potent extra edge.
Julia Holter began her set solo with the keyboard ballad ‘In Gardens’ Muteness’, her expressive vocals sounding heavenly. After a slight delay in which Holter delivered some endearing audience interaction as her band filed on stage, Holter treated the audience to a set predominantly drawn from Aviary. The intricate arrangements truly came to life on stage, with violins, double bass, trumpets, synths and even bagpipes came together in complex and stunning ways. Only four non-Aviary tracks were played, all from 2015’s gorgeous Have You in My Wilderness (one of my all-time favourites). These songs stood out from those from Aviary with their relatively more pop-orientated song-writing.
Holter’s background in musical composition really came through on the night. In many ways, this was not a set you would likely be able to witness from anyone else. For one, all five band members were reading off sheet music- something you don’t see too regularly outside of orchestra performances. Tracks like ‘Underneath the Moon’ and ‘Chaitius’ in particular showed off her compositional skills, with the cacophony of instrumentation showcasing a unique ear for arrangements. A personal highlight was ‘Feel You’, which would have to be one of my hypothetical “desert island songs”.
The audience sounded twice its size, each track met with thunderous applause and cheers from an awe-struck crowd. Holter seemed genuinely pleased with the reception each time. There was an intangible magic to the night that cannot be easily described in words, not only between the audience and the crowd but even within the audience itself. That is the kind of atmosphere Holter creates. As the powerful song ‘I Shall Love 2’ concluded the night, the crowd called out for more. The band appeared again to perform ‘Betsy on the Roof’ from Have You In My Wilderness, a fitting conclusion.
As soon as her set finished, much of the crowd rushed to the back of the Rosemount to get the chance to meet Holter herself and have her sign merchandise. I’m pleased to say Holter was incredibly gracious and personable to each person in line. Just another reason to love her.