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Dark blue backlights shot up from behind the stage to illuminate the silhouettes of the musically gifted siblings Angus and Julia Stone as they took centre stage. A nostalgic mood may have been set for the duo, now back at home in Sydney, but everything about tonight pointed to their new direction.
They played a minimal number of well-loved signatures and instead focused on their recently released self-titled album, creating a fresh atmosphere for fans who at best could only be somewhat familiar with the majority of the new material.
The showcase got straight to the point, opening with A Heartbreak, the lead track off their new record. Despite the pair harmonising in unison for the majority, from the beginning Julia set a precedent of outshining her younger brother through her soaring, drawling vocals.
The first flashback to the Angus and Julia Stone of times past was early on with For You, a melancholic journey that had the audience hanging on every word. Ending in darkness, Angus and Julia stood facing each other before the slow rolling tempo of Main Street began.
Three songs in and finally the crowd were acknowledged by Angus with a “How you doing, Sydney?” before he introduced another new song Crash and Burn. Here we saw the first lively spark of the night as Julia jumped up from where she had been sitting to grab a tambourine and dance in front of gold lights.
The pair had been undoubtedly influenced by their trip to the United States and we would later be told that all but one member of their band hail from there. Julia spoke of Chicago as the windy city referenced in Private Lawns, though it could have been applicable to Sydney that night. Surprisingly, this was the only song off their stellar first EP Chocolates and Cigarettes to make the cut.
It was around here that anticipation began to grow as two new songs Little Whiskey and Other Things were played, but no other real crowd favourites. For some, it would have been disappointing to hear Hold On and Big Jet Plane without a huge degree of energy up on stage but the saving grace came as Julia started singing her version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.
A couple of punters then stood up out of their seats and in the large, open venue they became as much a part of the performance as those on stage. Another cover was let loose on the crowd as the instantly recognisable hit from Grease, You’re The One That I Want, was elevated by moments of pure aggression from Julia.
A little more life was now flowing and interaction was finally building as they played Yellow Brick Road followed by Go Home. Some light relief was found in Julia’s banter to guitarist Ben Edgar as his disappearance offstage was meet with, “Benny, were you trying to get a beer or something? Trying to take a break, mate?”
A request from a crowd member saw The Wedding Song played with “Angus on the whistle” as he had no harmonica on hand and then the show came to a close with the duet Heart Beats Slow. The group left and returned together for the encore, but despite the introduction of each member preceding a cute group hug and harmony this led to nothing more than the closing song Santa Monica Dream.
While it’s understandable to want to show off your new stuff, you run the risk of leaving your audience unsatisfied. While we were left with a feeling of appreciation, there still remained that tingling desire of wanting just a bit more. More familiar tunes would have capped off the night.
Image: Angus & Julia Stone Live In Sydney, 2014 / Photo: Ashley Mar