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.