Gig review: Julia Holter at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Julia Holter at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds. Picture: Opera North
Julia Holter at Howard Assembly Room, Leeds. Picture: Opera North
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For those of the opinion that quiet is the new loud, the Howard Assembly rooms provide a wonderful space for convivial live music that doesn’t leave your ears bleeding afterwards; if you’re looking for a mosh pit, you’ve come to the wrong place.

The venue can also claim to be prolific American singer/songwriter Julia Holter’s Leeds venue of choice, and she’s back to share several moments from her soothingly chaotic new record ‘Aviary’, as well as the odd number from her sprawling back catalogue.

Tonight, classically trained Holter, on vocals, keys and sleigh bells, is joined by Tashi Wada on organ, Sarah Belle Reid on brass, Dina Maccabee on strings, Corey Fogel on drums, and Devin Hoff double bass. Between them they recreate a version of the lush experimentation of Holter’s expansive records in this welcoming theatre; the meditatively mantric ‘I Shall Love 1’ washing over the sold out venue like a gentle wave.

Another new song ‘Whether’, driven by a stabbing organ sound distinctly Gallic in flavour; indeed it could have been lifted straight from a Stereolab record.

Nevertheless, the tone for this evening has been set, only a handful of songs not coming ‘Aviary’, perhaps establishing Holter in the forward looking camp despite the elegiac ‘I Would Rather See’, seemingly evolving in part from a composition starting out as ‘Fast Chariot and Wounded Foot Soldier’, the droning keyboards enveloping Julia’s detached vocal, giving things a distinctly medieval feel.

The pick of tonight’s numbers is arguably ‘Chiatius’, a woozy dream-like odyssey as brass and strings compete with wailing vocal and more besides, the results decidedly celestial, also illustrating the painstaking process in creating her material. Completing her main set with a reprise of her opener, namely ‘I Shall Love 2’, everyone is delighted to see Holter return to the stage for ‘Sea Calls Me Home’.

To some, the Californian’s music may be considered an acquired taste but one can definitely vouch for her hypnotic, ethereal material and its ability to reel you in.