Julia Holter Took Her Music to New Heights in Toronto

Great Hall, May 13

With Thanya Iyer

Photo: Chris Gee

BY Kaelen BellPublished May 14, 2024

Julia Holter's music is known for its careful intellectualism, a body of work that sometimes requires an open tab or two. Her Monday night show at Toronto's Great Hall stayed true to that cerebral power while introducing a new (to first-timers, anyway) shade to Holter's artistic persona; that of the embodied showperson.

Joined by a crack band — Dev Hoff on fretless bass, Beth Goodfellow on percussion and backing vocals and Tashi Wada on synth and bagpipe — that moved with both considered, pitch-perfect exactitude and a wiley fluidity, Holter blew her songs to room-demolishing  proportions.

After opening with the shattered art-pop of this year's "Sun Girl," Holter took 2015's "Silhouette" to a punishing new height, building a wall of sound alongside her bandmates that nearly shook the floors. This density of sound continued throughout the night, as Holter's typically aerated compositions took on new weight — the glittering "Feel You" became even more grand, while "In the Green Wild" began sparse and jumpy before blossoming into enormity.


Holter was warm and affable, and though she didn't speak much, her quiet confidence and joy — she was often sharing smiles with her bandmates, who each brought their own sense of lived-in precision to the show — was palpable. Something in the Room She Moves single "Spinning" was a thundering, metallic stomp that inspired headbanging and raised arms, while fake-out closer "I Shall Love 2" rose to a cacophony before ending abruptly, a fittingly kinetic close to a show that felt really and truly alive.

Holter returned to the stage for a solo rendition of 2018's "Why Sad Song" before being joined again by the band for "Betsy on the Roof," the sonic and emotional peak of the night. The last note faded into the air, the players stepped from their instruments and gathered in a sidelong embrace for a group bow. More than a decade into the journey, it still feels like there are versions of Holter yet to be revealed. 

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