Gig review: Julia Holter, SWG3, Glasgow

It was towards the end of the show when Julia Holter, in freeform chatty mood throughout, asked the audience what one place she should visit in Glasgow when she gets up the next day.

Picture: Creative Commons

Julia Holter | SWG3, Glasgow | Rating ***

The names of various hip cafes and record shops were shouted. “Ibrox!” boomed another voice from somewhere in the gloom, and you had to laugh at the hilariously unlikely idea of this soft-voiced Californian, a rare and delicate bird of avant-garde baroque pop, taking in a Scottish football match.

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Her universally-acclaimed latest album Have You In My Wilderness was one of the best of 2015, a harpsichord-heavy daydream that has boosted Holter towards the same realm of intricate and mysteriously unknowable American music as Joanna Newsom. But for some reason parts of this show, the new songs in particular, left me cold.

Possibly it was the unenviable challenge of converting such exquisitely lush sounds to the live stage. Stood at the front playing keyboard, Holter was backed by a slim three-piece group on drums, upright bass and viola, talented musicians each but given to performing with a laid-back looseness that’s perhaps just the easygoing Californian way. Silhouette and Feel You felt a little listless. Better were the jazzy In The Green Wild and the searching Vasquez.

It didn’t help that the show ended on such an awkward note. After a mesmerising cover of Dionne Warwick’s Don’t Make Me Over and the PJ Harvey-esque Betsy on the Roof, a final song was aborted when a spectator at the front fainted. Holter disappeared without ceremony during the ensuing fuss. Whether or not looking forward to watching Rangers we’ll never know.