Live Review: Natalie Prass, Julia Jacklin

8 March 2016 | 12:04 pm | Samantha Jonscher

"Prass makes her way into the crowd to slow dance with an audience member."

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Opening the evening, Sydney local Julia Jacklin primes the audience for what is to come. Jacklin's husky voice and dirty guitar offer introspection and intimacy, conjuring the personal epiphanies that arrive looking out from the window from the passenger seat in a moving car. Like Prass, Jacklin too has a backing band, but while Prass' work for her, Jacklin's distract from her. Jacklin's best moments  and when they are good they are really good  come when she is alone on stage or towards the end of her set when her band pulls back and offer subtle accompaniment, in echoes and quiet rhythm.

On the stage of the Newtown Social Club Natalie Prass' small frame and bright personality carve a big presence, but as any singer would hope, it's her voice that seals the deal. Prass has impeccable control over a crystal-clear voice that leaps, falls and somersaults gracefully — and playfully — across the musical stave.

Prass begins with two of her own low-key alt-country numbers that prime the audience for the warmth and intrigue that come in the set's third offering: a lithe, cheeky cover of Simon & Garfunkel's The Sound Of Silence. Cleverly, Prass transforms the introspective, brooding classic into a giddy, defiant celebration. Not long after this, mid-song, Prass makes her way into the crowd to slow dance with an audience member. By the end of her dance, Prass has the audience eating from the palm of her hand.

Prass' band shadows her voice's jittery leaps and graceful falls, serving up texture that highlights her voice's funkiness and precision. They are not missed, however, when Prass kicks them off the stage for a "pee pee break" (Prass' Virginian accent disarms even the most saccharine of statements). This solo song — a new one apparently — betrays the songwriter's gutsy, emotional honesty: "Better than what it was/That's how I'll rewrite our love," the chorus goes. When the band returns they layer heavy, bluesy depth behind her vocals to close the show on My Baby Don't Understand Me and Why Don't You Believe In Me from her recent, self-titled release.

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