By Poppy Tohill
Artist: Angus & Julia Stone
Date / Venue: Sunday September 28th, Civic Theatre, Auckland
Love was very much in the air at Auckland's Civic Theatre on Sunday night, as the Australian brother and sister duo, Angus & Julia Stone performed a magnificent set to a sold out crowd of exceptionally adoring fans.
Despite creating music together since 2006, this is surprisingly the first time the Sydney based duo have ever performed in New Zealand. So whilst it's been an exceedingly long time coming, the wait proved 100 percent worth it, although in saying that, I do hope they decide to visit us again, preferably sooner rather than later!
As the lights eventually dimmed and the stage darkened, the strident, recognisable beat of ‘A Heartbeat' the first track from the duo's recently released self titled album, began with great gusto, as both Angus & Julia's vocals reached every corner of the venue exquisitely. Joined on stage by their excellent international band featuring Texas drummer Chris Dave, Melbourne guitarist/lap steel/banjo player Ben Edgar and Americanbassist Rob Calder, the five musicians together were magic. Each knowing their own rhythms, beats, riffs and musical parts perfectly, it really was an enjoyable experience watching each and every one of them have the time of their lives, giving each song more effort than the last.
Within seconds it became very obvious that Julia was the focal point of the show, definitely proving that she had the power to hold the audience in the palm of her own two hands, which she very much did indeed, although Angus didn't hesitate to throw out the odd, "Hey New Zealand, How's it doing?" Also cracking a few jokes and digs at Julia throughout the course of the night too.
I've noticed some international acts tend to take to the stage, converse with the audience ever so slightly, perform their set and then disappear again. However, this wasn't the case with Angus & Julia, who seemed to have just as much fun chatting and replying to the many humorous ‘I love you's' and ‘marry me,' comments, which continued to roll in thick and fast throughout the duration of the night, as Julia joked, "it's nice to hear that in a New Zealand accent."
"Thanks for finally fucking coming to New Zealand!" one audience member shouted, to which Angus jokingly responded, "thanks for finally having us!" which received many cheers, claps, and laughs from the audience, who were seemingly having just as much fun as Angus & Julia were. Crowd chatter aside, their set featured a perfect handful of songs from the new album, along with a few old favourites, and even a cover or two thrown in there as well.
The intent focus on Julia as one single beam of light shone down on her as she sung and finger-picked the beautiful melodies of ‘For You,' from their 2010 album ‘Down The Way' was just simply mesmerising, as was Julia's voice. Raw, unique and raspy, yet strong and beautiful, it was one of the most beautiful performances I have ever witness in my life, as the shivers down my spine continued as Angus joined in softly singing in the background, while the one light beam still streamed down on Julia.
As each song became more empowering and awe-inspiring than the last, they decided to showcase their slightly rockier side next, pumping out striking performances of both ‘Crash And Burn,' and ‘Private Lawns,'which the audience enjoyed moving around to in their seats. Much to the audience's excitement, ‘Private Lawns,' also saw Julia whip out her trumpet for a blast or two, almost giving the tune a slight reggae and Fat Freddy's Drop sound and feel to it.
"I'm sure you've all grown up with this song and some point in your lives," Julia announced before launching into a very slowed down and intimate version of ‘You're The One That I Want,' from Grease. Julia's gritty and seductive voice fit the song perfectly, as the audience also joined in on the fun, helping sing the "ooo-ooo-ooos." Followed by ‘Big Jet Plane,' the song that actually first ever introduced me to the brother and sister duo, was of course another crowd favourite, as the entire audience joined in swaying from one side to another in their seats.
As someone in the audience shouted out, "Marry me Julia!" she humorously responded, "about that wedding- I don't know, I think we should probably meet each other first," then continuing on to ask the audience which songs they wanted to hear. ‘The Wedding Song,' and ‘Yellow Brick Road' were the top favourite responses from many in the crowd.
Angus admitting he needed some time to recover, departed the stage with the rest of the band, letting Julia take the reigns once more, as she went on to perform a remarkable show-stopping version of their tune ‘The Wedding Song.' As her breathtaking vocals and unique tone blew every one away once more, a special mention also goes to Ben Edgar and his banjo and lap steel playing, delivering a lap steel solo that was beyond impressive, I literally have no words to describe it with.
Remaining a top highlight amongst many other tunes, Angus and the rest of the band returned to the stage for a fantastic performance of ‘Other Things,' which Julia had a bit of fun throughout, throwing a snippet ofCyndi Lauper's ‘Girl's Just Want To Have Fun,' to end of the track, much to the adoration of her abundance of female fans present in the audience.
Before too long it was Angus' time to shine as he took to the centre of the stage with guitar in hand to perform the requested ‘Yellow Brick Road.' Allowing the audience to truly focus and witness on his own vocal talents, which we'd previously not heard too much of, on their own, he performed the song beautifully to the complete satisfaction and approval of the audience, who energetically clapped, cheered and whistled in a loving response.
Ending on a high as the duo sung together one last time though out the up beat tune 'Heart Beats Slow,' from their most recent album, the audience awarded Angus & Julia a well earned and deserved standing ovation, rising from their seats in unison to clap, cheer, and stamp their feet for an encore, which for a few minutes I was worried actually wasn't going to happen as they seemed to be taking quite some time to return. But nonetheless, they of course returned, to the audience still on their feet, clapping and cheering in excitement to see the entire band once more.
As the band formed a semi circle around Julia front of stage, she introduced each member before kicking into an epic encore and version of The National's ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio,' which saw all five musicians crowd around the one mic to sing a few versus before taking to their instruments and letting complete rip for one last time.
Bringing the ambient mood and intimate vibe back, to close the show with, Angus and Julia joined forces one last time for ‘Santa Monica Dream,' which proved another show-stopper, as their melodies beautifully combined and intertwined with one another. Proving the perfect way to draw the night to an end and send everyone off home, with their sweet and delicate tones ringing softly in our ears.
Any fan of the duo honestly couldn't have asked for a better performance or set from the group to be honest. The audience's worship for both Angus and Julia was an experience to witness in itself, but the music and entertainment they also provided was an extra bonus to the already incredible package.
After spending the past few days wishing I could be as talented as Julia Stone, I think it's fair to say the entire concert left me speechless and inspired. Their talent, love, and passion for music is heart-warming and obvious, and I certainly hope this isn't the last we see of Angus & Julia Stone in New Zealand, as the audience made it fairly clear that we love them and they're more than welcome here anytime.