Riding on the critical and popular acclaim for her latest album, Turn Out the Lights, Julien Baker will have her biggest audience ever tonight when she appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Her performance is bound to reach two to three million viewers, but no pressure, home girl!
Her new record, recorded at Ardent, features arrangements at times rather more elaborate and lush than her debut. Yet she typically performs solo, and many consider that her strength: drawing audiences in to her meditations on love, rejection, God, rage, and redemption. So while it's doubtful she'll replicate the piano- and cello-tinged ensemble pieces captured on tape at Ardent, it won't matter. She will be, as Rebecca Haithcoat wrote in Vice, “alone onstage... no sets, no backup singers, just a girl, her guitar, and the weight of crosses she seems too young to bear.” That was what earned her her first fan base, and it will certainly win over more hearts tonight.
As one fan told the Village Voice, anticipating Baker's stunning New York performance at the Bowery Ballroom in 2016, “Prepare for the saddest, most fucking amazing night of your life.” And yet a closer listen also reveals a quiet strength that transcends self-pity. One feels her gathering her will to exorcise her frailties and pain. And that may be one key to her ever-growing appeal, as she takes her laments and desires to a global audience this year, with shows ranging from Japan to England, including the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in March.