Concert Review: Angus and Julia Stone

Angus and Julia Stone play the Opera House in Wellington
Angus and Julia Stone play the Opera House in Wellington

Last night I was lucky enough to see Angus and Julia Stone play for the second time in four months. I went along to the Opera House in Wellington knowing I was in for a great show and I was right, this Australian brother-sister duo managed to blow me away again.

Firstly I have to commend them on not having a rehearsed performance they roll out at every single gig. It pains me how often you now head along to see an artist or band for the second or third time and you are subjected to the exact same set list , repeated jokes and the same stories introducing each song. I loved that last night Angus and Julia Stone put on an entirely unique show, there was no repetition from when I saw them play in Auckland in September. Instead they just went with it and fed off the crowd, responding to requests for songs, laughing and joking along with people telling them they’re beautiful and thanking their dedicated fans. Everything in their set was new and fresh and that would see me buy a ticket to see them every time they come here, where in other cases I might opt out because I’ve ‘seen them before’. With this duo the gloss will never wear off.

It was obvious last night that the siblings have really found their sound on their latest self-titled album. The newer songs stood out, they came to life with a fantastic backing band which adds a bit more oomph to the love songs and helps to thicken up their soft voices by adding an element of rock. The set started strongly with Heart Beats Slow, in which both their voices were immediately showcased alongside each other. Julia’s fiesty, yet soft and sexy sound is complimented perfectly by her brother’s gentle and dulcet tones.

Half the magnificence of Angus and Julia Stone is the variety in their songs. Last night we got flashes of their original work which is very folk influenced, but before you knew it you’d be transported to a rock song or a fun, jazzed up cover like You’re The One That I Want from Grease. Their voices were at their best in the slow, love songs like For You and Santa Monica Dream which gave me and those seated beside me chills. But my pick of the songs in last nights set was Crash and Burn, a song that simply has to be influenced by Neil Young. It’s a bit of an Angus classic, with similar sounds to the likes of Yellow Brick Road from the album Down the Way and his solo work like Broken Brights. It’s slow and melodic with elegant lyrics and more than one crescendo guitar solo. I was riveted during the whole song. Julia’s sensual dancing in the shadow of the lights during this tune added to the effect of it all, it was quite mesmerising.

During the gig the pair announced they were loving their time in our beautiful city and of course it wasn’t long before someone in the crowd made it known that Wellington is a windy city. Julia immediately took the hint and promised the crowd that their song Private Lawns which features lyrics about the windy city being ‘mighty pretty’ was coming our way soon. When it did, we were blown away. The upbeat, bouncy song was such a fun change following on from some of their slower tracks. This was Julia’s real time to shine as a musician, she strummed along, kicking her feet up in time with the beat and annunciating the words ‘private’ and ‘public’ with popping p’s and silly facial expressions. Before you know it, the guitar is swung around behind her and she picks up the trumpet and blasts out a stunning solo that makes everyone’s mouths drop wide open. Then she barely has a moment to catch her breath before she’s straight back into the singing again – she must have amazing capacity in those lungs cause this is truly quite a remarkable thing to watch.

This morning as I reflect on the show I’ve decided the duo are in their prime. Since coming back together with the help of producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin they have really found their place in the music world and their live act is a work of art. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Angus and Julia Stone.

Song of the Week – Greek Tragedy

The Wombats - Glitterbug Album Cover
The Wombats – Glitterbug Album Cover

The Wombats dropped the second track off their new album last week and I have been absolutely cranking it since. Greek Tragedy is electric. It’s quintessential Wombats. Like every other song they’ve ever written, when you play it you will find it impossible not to groove while listening. In the last five days listening to Greek Tragedy has seen me pull off an impressively subtle set of head banging in the car at the traffic lights, have a full on one-person dance party in my bedroom and instill fear in my boyfriend as he figured out this will be the song I play non-stop for the next few weeks while exclaiming ‘this is my jam!’

One thing that is obvious in this song is that the Brit rockers have grown up a bit. Matthew Murphy’s vocals aren’t shouted as much as in other hits and that’s a welcome change. There’s more to his voice than you would’ve realized in their previous two albums This Modern Glitch and A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation. The whole noise of the band is now more mature, slowed down and produced with that modern electronica sound we’re hearing across all good indie acts today. It’s a fun, summer track that’s well worth a listen.

Watch out for the release of the full album Glitterbug which is expected April 6th.

The Falls Festival Awards

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts over the last month.

I’m back at work now after a wonderful three week holiday and as the dust settles I keep remembering my trip away.

I spent New Year in Byron Bay, Australia and attended the Falls Festival.

It was a great event, although a bit too hot for my liking, the musicians were outstanding and the vibe was wonderful.

So here are my 2014 Falls Festival Byron Bay Awards.

Falls Festival Byron Bay
Falls Festival, Byron Bay

The ‘best of the best’ award:

alt-J

For the whole hour long set I was in heaven. I never imagined this band could sound quite so good live! I have to admit I thought their voices just wouldn’t compare in real life, I imagined they were rather computerised. Boy was I wrong. Frontman Joe Newman is a singing legend. His tone, pitch, energy and even annunciation were perfect, add into the mix his unique sound and you’ve obviously got a winning combo. His voice echoed across the Valley stage and filled you up with a sense of awe. alt-J rattled through the hits from their first record like Breezeblocks, Matilda, Tessellate and Taro and everyone in the audience was in music heaven. They brought to life every song they played off their new album, Hunger of the Pine was spine-tingling material, Left Hand Free was a massive singalong and Nara was mesmerising. I was completely spell-bound. Newman and his gang were kind performers who had a lovely rapport with the crowd, played the songs everyone wanted to hear in stunning fashion and just generally kicked ass. It was such an amazing concert I still don’t know how to best describe it other than to say it was incredible. If you haven’t seen them live yet, don’t miss tickets to their next show.

The ‘next big thing’ award:

George Ezra

When I took a look around the crowd at his set and saw a mass of people, most of who were singing every word to songs from his debut album Wanted on Voyage it was evident everyone around the world has fallen in love with George Ezra as fast as I have. This was the third time in six months that I had seen Ezra play and in that time he’s already learnt to act like a superstar who’s been performing all his life. He started the set sending shivers down everyone’s spine as he came on stage and sang the intro of Did You Hear The Rain unaccompanied. Ezra sounded as good with no backing as many artists would with a full choir behind them, his voice was simply beautiful. I spent most of the hour dancing to a number of tracks from his album like Blame It On Me, Listen To The Man and Cassy O’, the songs were energetic and upbeat while still being pretty darn breathtaking. Of course hit first single Budapest drew in a big crowd and was very popular, and despite me knowing his album and E.P back to front, he still played new material and it was fantastic, so there’s a lot more to come from him! It is clear watching the 21-year-old that he is going to be around for a long time and is going to go a long way.

The Forest Stage
The Forest Stage

The ‘electronica god’ award:

Asgeir

The Icelandic singer-songwriter was such a great act to watch on a sunny afternoon, lazing on the grassy banks of the Forest stage. He started the set slowly, playing some more laid-back tunes which reverberated across the crowd and had everyone toe-tapping and nodding in time with the beat. It was such a relaxing vibe and I was loving it but the best bit came when he stepped it up a notch with a rousing cover of Nirvana’s song Heart Shaped Box. Within minutes the crowd was more attentive and singing along, captivated by his sassy falsettos. Going Home was another highlight while King and Cross blew me away and has been playing on repeat on my iPod ever since. The song was electric, the audience was buzzing and Asgeir absolutely killed it.

The ‘impossibly fun’ award:

Bluejuice

This was the well-known Aussie band’s second to last performance ever. They’re heading their separate ways shortly and everyone at Falls knew this was a gig you didn’t want to miss. One thing’s for sure, you’d be kicking yourself if you did. The Sydney boys put on the show of a lifetime. The Forest stage tent became a sweaty pit of people dancing and screaming so hard they looked like they’d faint, I certainly felt that way, but it was worth it because I had so much fun enjoying every minute of their set. They had a contagious energy which spread across the crowd and seemed to take over peoples bodies. Songs like Act Yr Age, Vitriol, Ain’t Telling the Truth and their spaced out cover of Lana Del Rey’s Video Games were all brilliant. The finale of Broken Leg was on a whole other level. It was impossible not to grin with a feverish happiness during the whole hour. I loved it and so did everyone else, the Bluejuice boys were the talk of the festival.

IMG_4072_2

The ‘ones to watch’ award: 

Milky Chance

This German folk duo was a real joy to watch on stage. Their music is such a fresh sound in a time when a lot of songs sound the same. Singer Clemens Rehbein has a voice like no one else. He croons with a fierce energy and his vocals echoed out across the Falls valley magnificently. He’s supported wonderfully by Philip Dausch whose production cleverly changes the songs from being a laidback acoustic to a more electronica sound which is hard to resist. The pairs tunes are funky numbers, something which seems to stem from their background in jazz music. I highly recommend checking them out.

The ‘surprise superstar’ award:

La Roux

I’ll admit, La Roux wasn’t exactly on my list of acts I was desperate to see so when my friend and I went to check her out we were quite literally blown away. She was such a great performer. Her stunning voice was pitch perfect, powerful and punchy. She ruled the stage like she’s done it since she was a child. There was not a single person in the audience not dancing and singing up a storm and it was so much fun to experience.

The ‘so good it makes you cry’ award:

John Butler Trio

I don’t know what it is about this man but he has an incredible ability to make me cry. I’ve seen him in concert many a times and he’s a brilliant musician I’ll never tire of seeing. In a set with the John Butler Trio you get a taste of everything a concert should have. The songs so bouncy you can’t physically sit still, the vocals that strike a chord with you, the lyrics that make you laugh as you sing them (or try to keep up with him singing them in his case), the kind of crowd interaction that keeps everyone focused and silent and of course, the mind-blowing guitar playing that brings tears to your eyes. John Butler slowed things down a little mid-set and played Ocean, his twelve minute instrumental on an eleven-string guitar. It’s a song that he adapts slightly each time he plays and there is not a person in the world that wouldn’t be blown away by this song, especially when watching him play it live with such incredible passion. Check out the video below to get some idea of how amazing he is and how perfectly Ocean showcases his talents.