A sunny Manchester mid-afternoon felt like a perfect introduction to Julia Bardo's forthcoming Bauhaus L'Appartamento album as she played a seven-song set of tracks taken from the album with her five-piece band on the main stage in Manchester International Festival's Cathedral Square hub.
With a new album on the way and playing to an audience that might only have a limited knowledge of her work given the open nature of the festival hub and the inconvenient timing for many, it's a brave move for Julia to not play her older tracks like the million-stream Please Don't Tell Me and her debut single Desire. However that's more than justified when you hear the songs from Bauhaus L'Appartamento out in the flesh. The songs are understated, they don't try and blow you away either in structure or in performance, but seek to wrap around you and charm you into submission, as they do as the set progresses as the audience chatter turns more to listening as the warm glow of the song's melodies do their magic.
The album's two singles to date - Do This To Me and It's Okay (To Not Be Okay) - are included though, yet they're more than matched by the set and album-opener The Most and the subtly uplifting yet reassuring final song Impossible. All seven songs are delivered with enough power for them to carry to the crowd yet with enough subtlety to allow Julia's gorgeous lightly-accented vocal to very much take centre stage as on the aforementioned It's Okay's reassuring arm around the shoulder or the optimistic yet uncertain emotions of No Feeling and Impossible. Whilst the songs might delve into her own world of being away from her native Italy and living in a place that's not always as welcoming to outsiders as it should and the ways of dealing with that, there's plenty in them that will resonate with anyone who harbours self-doubt where revealing them is the best approach.
As the half-hour draws to a close, it's very evident that the curious have been won over, bystanders have struck lucky by the chance of being in the same place, and those of us that have followed her from the moment Desire stunned us a couple of years ago realise that the album is likely to surpass expectations. The slightly nervous early performances have now been replaced by an assured confidence that comes from having a talented band and a strong set of material to go with it.
Bauhaus L'Appartamento is released on October 1 and can be preordered via Piccadilly Records.
She plays Preston Ferret (July 22), Manchester Psych Fest (September 4), Leicester O2 Academy (18), Manchester Yes (26), Birmingham Hare And Hounds (October 6), Sheffield Sidney And Matilda (14), Nottingham Bodega (17) and Halifax Albany Arcade (22).