Rocking a full band this time around, Julien Baker made a triumphant return to the Twin Cities Friday night. Solo artist, member of Boygenius and songwriter, she is out supporting her latest release Little Oblivions.
First up on Friday night was Thao, singer songwriter from San Francisco. With a bass player and a drummer, Thao had a strong, energetic set. She switched back and forth between electric guitar and mandolin as the Mainroom filled to capacity. Julien Baker even joined her for a tune near the end of her set.
Julien Baker came out with her band right around 9 and started her set with “Hardline”, a tune off her latest album. The song started out orchestral, built slowly as the band kicked in, until mid tune, where it really started to rock out. The set kept rocking with “Bloodshot” and then slowed the tempo down for a couple of tunes. The show was heavily skewed toward Little Oblivion, roughly 2/3rds of the set consisted of cuts from there. Tunes from earlier releases like “Shadowboxing” and “Sprained Ankle” had new life breathed into them getting a full band treatment on this tour.
There was raw intensity in Baker’s vocals, especially when she was crooning delicately, and it captivated the packed Mainroom. There were times you could hear a pin drop. Her lyrics are explicit and unambiguous, and can only come from authentic struggle. You can feel the heartbreak yourself, really relate to the pain. There was plenty of joy too, as Baker shredded her blonde telecaster regularly throughout the night.
While the statement “pours out her soul through their music” may be a tired cliche, this is really the only authentic way to articulate Julien Baker’s performance at First Avenue Friday night.