ANGUS & JULIA STONE @ Perth Concert Hall gets 9/10

Angus and Julia Stone @ Perth Concert Hall
w/ Ruel
Friday, September 29, 2017

9/10

They stood with the waves crashing behind them, the wind blowing their hair. After ten years of blessing Australia with their sepia-toned folk, Angus & Julia Stone have returned with their new album Snow. The Perth Concert Hall sold out in anticipation of their headline tour, on a night that kicked off with a glipse at the future care of 14 year old musical prodigy Ruel, who played his hits produced by the man who discovered him, M-Phazes, alongside a full band.

Angus and Julia Stone transformed the packed out hall to a dreamy seaside scene for opener Baudelaire, as impressive visuals backed the band with rolling waves. The audience found themselves in a pretty little world for the next two hours, as the combination of picturesque settings and the band’s dreamy sound took them from seaside to forest to memories of their own.

Angus started the second track, Make It Out Alive, speaking casually as if to a friend. You could imagine him leaning against a wall, talking into a telephone:

“She wanted to go to a party
She wanted to go to a place where we could unwind
Where we could listen to some old dusty records
Just to spin around.”

Julia layered in high-pitched, dreamy backing vocals, and the song built as the siblings began to swap line for line, masterfully finishing each other’s sentences in harmony.

“I felt the music hit my bones and I fell back
I fell into the clouds…”

The softly spoken siblings were confident, welcoming the audience after setting the scene about five songs in, sharing backstories to tracks and pouring their hearts into the concert. Julia seemed to direct the show, but even Angus mumbled stories to the audience and where he previously may have kept to the shadows, he took the spotlight as well as his sister. It was nice to see them unwind and relax, like getting to know the shy kids on the block.

The stand out tracks from the new album were Chateau and title track Snow. The staccato beginning of Chateau was matched with spotlights changing from band member to band member, while cotton-wool snow fell from the ceiling in Snow, getting stuck on Angus’ hat and making the band laugh.

The tracks from this new record have progressed from A & J’s previous albums in a way that is difficult to put your finger on. The sound is distinctly their’s, nostalgic and bittersweet, but it has matured, like good red wine. While their songs are a continuation of stories of love, lust and longing, in place of harmonica and mandolin there is gentle electric guitar, pretty, poignant synth and an impeccable tightness to the tracks, translated by the band in their live performance. Even when playing their older music, everything seemed slowed and relaxed in ways that allowed space for each melody, solo and harmony to stand out and breathe.

Julia shone as bright as her sparkling glittered boots in old favourite Private Lawns, hitting the audience with a powerful prowess in her voice that has at times been dismissed as cute. With Julia’s one-handed trumpet solo and an equally impressive banjo solo, the song, from their Chocolates and Cigarettes EP released in 2006, was recreated in a fresh and exciting way, once again showing Angus & Julia’s ability to grow with their sound.

“I wrote this song on the road, after a show in Fremantle,” said Julia, referring to 2010’s For You. The song was first recorded in a hotel room on Julia’s laptop using Garage Band, in an emotional post breakup song writing session. “I sent it to him,” she said, her voice both light and wistful at the same time. “I wanted to tell him how I felt, one last time, and also show him how wonderful I am.” She laughed, looking at her boots; “It didn’t work. But I love singing this song.”

“If you love me, with all of your heart
If you love me, I’ll make you a star in my universe
You’ll never have to go to work
You’ll spend everyday, shining your light my way”

Their honest sharing and interaction with the audience made both Julia and her brother relatable and likeable, adding a new layer of understanding to popular songs.

Throughout the set the band seemed to utilise the incredible acoustics of the room rather than over amplifying instruments, giving them a natural, full bodied sound. Unfortunately, not everyone learned how to sit quietly in kindergarten, and at times the drunk crew chatting in row N competed with the band, which could potentially have been a little louder.

The set lifted dynamically with rockier track Who Do You Think You Are, with Angus on keys and a driving drumbeat giving a Friday-arvo-driving-to-the-beach vibe. The whole band was bursting with energy and the audience felt it too, clapping along.

Uptown Folks from Angus’ solo project Dope Lemon was met with whistles and screams as the recognisable riff began. Julia let Angus have this one, dancing around with a tambourine as Angus crooned his banger of a track.

The duo did a really good job of sharing the stage, knowing when to step back and when to interact, swapping instruments and reading each other’s moves with the expertise of siblings who have shared their musical gift as long as they can remember.

When the show was over the band received a standing ovation, and returned to play another three songs. A giant, full blue moon hung over the stage for the band’s cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, and when they did finally leave the stage after playing Soldier from their debut album A Book Like This the crowd continued to applaud for a good five minutes.

MOLLY SCHMIDT

Photo by Linda Dunjey Photography

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