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Live Review: Angus & Julia Stone w/ Angie McMahon @ Eaton’s Hill Hotel – 28.04.2018

There’s something about an Angus & Julia Stone show, a sort of aura of peace of love that brings the room together, and this precedent set a high bar for their Brisbane performance on Friday night. 

Angie McMahon kicked things off as their support act and she stood out for all the right reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, her voice hit all the right spots—strong, sweet and a little bit quirky, she had a taste of that something that made artists like Birdy and K. D. Lang into household names. Secondly, she had the confidence to call the shots. As some members of crowd became aggressive, McMahon immediately called it out over the microphone, refusing to play until the violence ended. The crowd appreciated the gesture and when the music finally started up again, it was worth the wait.  

Finally, her tracks, ranging from titles such as I Wanted You to the aptly—and intriguingly—named Pasta, championed simple chords and a minimalist style which only served to further highlight her lyrics and vocals. After all, it’s not every day you hear a song about pasta. Another Woman was a set highlight, allowing the strength and intensity in her voice to shine through for the first time, but nothing swept the crowd up like her closing number Slow Mover. They sang along with gusto, and it set the stage perfectly for the main event. 

Despite the anticipation in the room, Angus & Julia Stone made a humble normal entrance to the stage, simply walking out with the rest of their band. It struck the crowd immediately just how comfortable the pair looked on stage. From the very beginning of the set, as they floated through Draw Your Swords, they looked at home. It might have been the result of a relentless touring schedule and twelve years of experience performing together, but it put the crowd at ease. The tune’s layers fell into place so naturally and as they followed up with Snow, they cemented that feeling. The call-and-response style worked seamlessly, highlighting the sweetness of Julia’s voice and the warmth of their duet. She came into her own with a solo verse, and the music seemed to slow, indulging the band and the audience in the sound and the silence. Drenched in blue stage lights, they looked as though they could have been floating in the ocean. 

Then they changed it up. Private Lawns brought the funk (as well as one hell of a banjo solo), the duo working together so tightly that it was as if they had a telepathic connection, while the rest of the band looked tickled pink to be there. They continued to show off their mastery of sparse moments, until Julia brought out her trumpet, holding it in one hand with her guitar was in the other. They even changed up the stage as the lights went out, shuffling things around in front of a new backdrop, and the whole energy seemed to ramp up a few notches. The driving bass and drums in Who Do You Think You Are, paired with smooth vocal unison, made it a set highlight, although the real highlight was the joy they radiated into the crowd. 

Their connection with the audience and each other started strong and built throughout the show. A set full of gentle melodies and tender vocals made for a quiet show, which made for a quiet room as they commanded the attention of the crowd. Just The Way You Are was played so quietly, some had to strain to catch the words, and it made for a much more intimate experience. Minimal backing made it like a lullaby—at least, that is, until the bass and drums kicked in—and although the crowd sang along, there was a sense of respect and preservation for the creative process at work on stage. The best thing about their performance style was its casual nature, almost like watching a casual jam session amongst friends. 

What stood out perhaps more than anything else was the uniqueness, that quality exclusive to the sibling duo from Sydney, which has held them steady since 2006. It began with Angus’ trademark hat, a welcome fixture during any stage performance, and it continued with Santa Monica Dream. The simple duet showcased their togetherness on stage, as well as the purity of Julia’s voice against the stillness in the room. It was raw and vulnerable, a set highlight which wouldn’t soon be forgotten. 

The show left the room full of Brisbanites feeling inspired and wanting more of this miraculously natural performance style, despite the rowdy capacity crowd. One guy was overheard saying, “I wish I was as cool as Angus Stone,” a sentiment likely echoed across the room and much of Australia. Well played, Stone family. 

Written by Jess Martyn