Rated 5 out of
A captivating performance
Julia performed for 1 hour and 22 minutes with a set of 13 songs. She played keyboard, supported by her band of three on percussion, double bass and viola.
The performance was on the whole restrained and understated but there was more passion than in her recorded music and In The Green Wild, for example, she performed with real animation. She didn’t seek to work up an air of excitement, performing with rapt concentration, and her songs were reverentially but warmly received.
She is a performer very much in control of herself, and her music is very considered and precise, at times unsettling in its strange mixture and sudden switches of musical style. It is a ‘contemplative’ music in that very careful attention has been given to its composition and, to be appreciated, it probably demands a similarly ‘contemplative’ approach: one must let oneself simply be beguiled by the spells it casts, and trying to be analytical is probably futile not only in terms of the music itself but also in seeking meaning in the often impenetrable lyrics. But though her music is very precise and considered, in no way is it cold, unemotional or unengaging.
Vasquez, which closed the set before the two-song encore, ended with an extended discordant instrumental passage (much longer than the rendering on CD), at first with solo double bass, and then the viola joined in with some extraordinary sounds. It was a bravura display of technique, though the dissonances did not always make for easy listening!
When Julia spoke to the audience, which she did roughly between every other song, she did so charmingly and with humour and self-deprecation.
She made humorous reference after her first song City Appearing to Manchester’s cuisine, stating she was so impressed she was going to buy a cookery book of local recipes!
Before singing Betsy on the Roof she paused and puffed out her cheeks, thought, bent down for a sip of wine and commented with a mischievous smile, “Wine makes me sing much better.”
When she introduced her cover of the Burt Bacharach song Don't Make Me Over she commented that Dionne Warwick had sung it beautifully but “I’m going to do it heartfelt and bad!” And it was clear from the intense way in which she sang the lyrics Don't pick on the things I say, the things I do / Just love me with all my faults, that way that I love you and the recurrent Accept me for what I am / Accept me for the things that I do that these were words that meant a lot to her.
Julia’s last song was Sea Calls Me Home, which was a breathtaking conclusion to an enchanting performance: her voice had a powerful clarity and her whistling was the most beautiful I’ve ever heard!
Before she sang that last song she reflected on her previous appearances in Manchester at the Deaf Institute and Anthony Burgess Foundation, performing to very small audiences and made the lovely comment, “I like performing to small audiences. I’ve performed for 5 people. I love performing for 5 people.” She then paused and looked out at the packed audience and added, “But I love this!” She was clearly touched by the popularity she is gaining, probably deriving from the very positive reviews of her latest album, and she left the stage with a delighted and beautiful smile.
Date published: 2016-02-22