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Angus & Julia Stone LIVE at Jericho Tavern, Oxford review

Angus & Julia Stone
Photo credit: Gina Policelli

Regular readers will recall how much I love Angus & Julia Stones' album 'A Book Like This', so it was no surprise that I hotfooted it to Oxford's Jericho Tavern (28th April, 2008) to catch the antipodean duo in action, accompanied by photographer Gina Policelli. We were not disappointed.

The small venue got increasingly crammed as people jostled to find a space from which they could gaze adoringly at the duo. We were in good company: no less than Romeo from the Magic Numbers was in attendance, which occasioned much excitement from your roving reporter (as anyone who knows me can well imagine). It appears he's friends with the band as well as a man with exceedingly good musical taste. Off to a good start, then.

The venue itself was perfect for the kind of intimacy Angus & Julia's music lends itself to - small enough to create a connection with the audience yet large enough to withhold the crowd the band drew. Adorned with leaves and large cut-outs of the picture book-style images from their album cover, the stage had a distinctly bucolic look and the band had a chilled, yet festive vibe. The festive, rural atmosphere extended to the band's appearance: Angus and Julia looked beautiful, dressed like they'd stepped out of a medieval tableau - travellers of old come to regale the denizens of Oxford with their musical wares.

Opening with the sublime "Mango Tree" with Angus on lead vocals, followed by Julia taking the lead with "Hollywood", I was struck by their incredible musicianship and slightly breathy, perfectly pitched though totally contrasting vocal styles. Although their voices have very different characters, in performance I noticed a breathy similarity which at times made their harmonies sound as if from one person. Their differing styles fuse to make something utterly distinctive; Angus's deliciously crisp yet delicate voice providing a backdrop to his sisters crackling lilt - just as Julia herself returned the favour, supplying backing vocals to Angus' wistful cadences. They took turns on lead vocals, offering the audience a set full of whimsy and feeling.

From the taut guitar of "Paper Aeroplane" to the melancholic trumpet of "Private Lawns" and the stirring harmonica on "The Wedding Song" (dedicated sweetly to a friend and/or anyone in love and in the mood for 'making babies'), the pair proved it's more than their vocal dexterity which makes them so beloved of musos and non-musos alike. Their voices were just two of the instruments they used to great effect. They are fine musicians: it was incredible to watch Julia effortlessly switch between guitar and trumpet (oh - she also plays keyboards too! All this and a very pretty dress to boot), and Angus looked extremely iconic as he strummed and picked his guitar and played harmonica.

Backed by Mitchell Connelly (the third member of the band) on drums and Clay MacDonald on bass for the occasion, all four were clearly in their element and looked very comfortable with each other. Crucially, they looked like they were having fun. Angus made a few gentle quips and Julia danced and skipped merrily around the mike in an endearing and elfin manner. The siblings bantered with the audience before their encore, assuring us that the rhythm section - who totally endeared themselves to the crowd - would return for a final track.

One of the final songs proved that the band can put their talents to pretty much anything; their experiments the musical equivalent to the successes of the Gold Rush prospectors in their birthplace Australia over 150 years ago. They took two totally different songs and managed to mine sensory gold from them: a mash-up of Joy Division's "Transmission" and the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann". Incongruous? Yes. Bloody brilliant? Yes again. That the band pulled this off to their own delight as well as the audience's says it all.

This is a band who are all about sentiment and adventure. Just as the album tells a series of stories, their performance was a playful, meandering scene which stole everyone's hearts. The duo's voices sounded beautiful, the gig a credit to their emotional pull of their song-writing. They came across as very likeable and down to earth, hanging around the venue afterwards to their more ardent fans' glee. They even signed my companion's CD whilst I - star struck - stammered some praise in an embarrassing manner. Whilst my verbal praise may not have cut the mustard, I hope this review says it all. A very lovely night was had and thanks to the band for showing us how it's done.

Angus & Julia Stone Official Website
Angus & Julia Stone Myspace

By: Lindsey Davis

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