After seeing them once years ago at Falls Festival, mistakenly I’d dismissed them as another run-of-the-mill indie outfit who looked the part, but are way overhyped. I was plenty sick of ‘Big Jet Plane’, essentially I regarded them as something I’d be happy to have playing in the background at a cafe but I wouldn’t be bothering to lend my attention to. What a fool I was! Angus and Julia, I apologize for not giving your stunning talent the full attention it deserves. Boy, do you deserve it.
The magnificent Palais, with its ornate ceilings, crystal clear acoustics and spectacular grandeur, was the perfect environment to indulge in a dose of sonic bliss. I settled back into my leather seat, just in time for Brisbane based atmospheric quartet, Vancouver Sleep Clinic. Their brand of electronically-driven melancholic ambiance, is really something special. The band’s main attraction is definitely in Tim Bettinson’s spine-tingling Bon Iver/James Blake –esk vocal talents. His high-notes delivered over a blend of live drums, drum machine, guitar, keys, synth and vocal harmonies bring a gorgeous body to their sound.
And then came the main event. The live show out of Angus and Julia Stone is like a giant group hug. It’s warm, intimate and powerful – practically impossible to tear yourself away from. Not to take anything away from Angus’s effortless vocal ability and spectacular musicianship; while he retreats behind the shadow of his hat and his (glorious) hair, Julia dances about the stage, carrying the show with her charming storytelling and playful banter. I don’t doubt that every person in the audience, lady or man, developed a full-blown crush on her by the end of the show. Throughout the set, both siblings switched endlessly between an array of instruments; from acoustic guitar, to electric, to slide guitar, to tambourine, to trumpet, to keys – what can’t you play?
This tour, the Sydney brother and sister act pulled away from their quiet acoustic folk feel of shows past, for a fuller bodied sound, encompassing six musicians from the USA and parts of Australia. Their set-list showcased predominantly their newest self titled release – an album produced my Rick Rubin and riddled with pristine harmonies and slow-building masterpieces of emotion. I heard opening line, “I met your parents, they were lying about falling in love,” in ‘A Heartbreak’ and thought, wow, heavy. ‘Main Street’ was another, very evocative, highlight.
There were a number of golden oldies thrown in there, like ‘Private Lawns’, ‘For You’ and ‘Santa Monica Dream’. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t hear ‘Big Jet Plane’, despite countless audience requests for it.
Julia raised the hair on the backs of everybody’s necks in ‘Wedding Song’, featuring acoustic guitar, a trumpet solo and chorus, “You and I for ever and ever, And we’ll, we’ll make babies on the beach” (which sounds much more uncomfortable when you write it down). Apparently Angus was supposed to whistle during the solo too but much to Julia’s confusion he legged it off stage, and didn’t return until the next song.
A hypnotizing six-part harmony in their cover of The National’s ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ was part of the encore. Two other surprise covers were in their folk acoustic arrangement of Grease’s ‘You’re the One That I Want’, involving Angus on the slide guitar and an effective super extended outro. As well as Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, which morphed seamlessly out of Stones’ original, ‘Other Things’.
To top it all off, clever lighting created moody shadows and added further majesty to their performance.
I will now add Angus and Julia Stone‘s show to my list of the best bands I’ve seen live this year. They succeeding in completely changing my downbeat opinion of them, and I look forward to seeing them further evolve as a band.