The audience at White Eagle Hall was already rapt before Julien Baker began her sold-out show. As she carefully stepped out onto the stage, sparsely illuminated with a background of lamps that resembled streetlights, the quiet was immediately enveloping; you could hear a pin drop in the dead silence between the faint clacks of camera shutters. Beginning with “Appointments,” the first full track off 2017’s Turn Out the Lights, feathery wisps of white light were strewn across the stage as Baker was suddenly blanketed in a shaft of soft purple lighting, as if a lavender-colored sun was leaking through a hole in the ceiling.
A Julien Baker show is mesmerizing; she holds everyone’s eyes in the palms of her hands. Her presence is almost ethereal; her gentle voice, at times fragile and delicate, can suddenly, grandly rise, soaring up into a vast melodic expanse. Small of stature and soft-spoken, Baker is solitary yet powerful, commanding the stage all by herself; a one-woman orchestra who can spin symphonies with just a guitar and piano.
Moving seamlessly through her set, Baker wasted little time between songs for banter, focused solely on her performance. The bulk of tracks played were from Turn Out the Lights, along with a smattering of Sprained Ankle. “Red Door,” an unreleased track, and “Funeral Pyre,” off an untitled EP, rounded out the show.
Towards the second half of the set, Baker invited her friend and violinist, Camille Faulkner, to accompany her, added a further layer of feeling and pathos.
“Something,” one of Baker’s most upbeat tunes, made up the encore with the whole venue singing. The moment she exited the stage, fans rushed to the front in an attempt to grab the setlist. This is the kind of fervor Baker inspires in her audience.
She makes her way back to the New York/New Jersey area in July, providing support for Courtney Barnett in Prospect Park.