Angus & Julia Stone and their talented players put on a fine display of musicianship on Tuesday night. Maybe I should have had a cup of coffee prior, I’m aware of some of the sleepier qualities of their brand of indie folk. Happily many of the recorded versions of their song are considerably more punchy in a live setting. This lent to a nice ebb and flow to the set.
From the sensual intro/outro trumpet washes of “Baudelaire” played mesmerisingly by Julia to the game and playful crowd_love-baiting trumpet playing of Angus in the closer “Soldier”. We of the audience were constantly reminded these were multi-talented people, very deserving of the packed house they played to @ MTelus.
The early part of the set was largely from the new record “Snow” which has received some mixed reviews but live songs like “Chateau”, “Baudelaire” and “Cellar Door” took on a stronger energy and the songs seem to have been sufficiently broken in over the course of the tour. “Cellar Door” especially benefiting a great deal from a singalong quality I never noticed on record. A pleasant surprise.
Many of the fans around me knew the lyrics to new and older songs alike – and did not hold back. I know this isn’t uncommon, but it was uncommonly good audience accompaniment. Perhaps the laid back style of the Stone siblings just lends itself to that. There wasn’t any fist-pumping drunk chanting, it was a harmonic extension of the band inside the audience and it felt natural, especially on songs like “Yellow Brick Road”, “Big Jet Plane” and “For You”. Angus & Julia have managed to carve out a meaningful relationship with their fans, even as far away here as Montreal. It was visible on the faces of audience members who were reliving meaningful moments peculiar to themselves in real time.
We’d be missing something if we didn’t talk about the tremendous blend of voices on stage though, the title artist of course, being brother and sister and all yadayadayada… But 3 of the 4 support musicians lent wonderful harmonies that seemed to flow with sincerity. Not without some effort – even if it looked effortless, the bass player for instance, playing synths bass in one rhythm, bass guitar in another rhythm and beautiful high harmonies in yet another. I can’t even manage to play the spoons.
The quality of the backing band has given Angus & Julia a spontaneous, solid bedrock and confidence. Also the band were a huge part of livening up some of those calmer record tracks like “Who Do You Think You Are” and “Private Lawns”, the former being just a joyous rocker live, the latter enjoying an absolutely huge banjo breakdown -and then morphed into some middle eastern thing with shades of “Zorba the Greek” -and then the trumpet is back and it sounds like we’re in the middle of a bullfight -and then it comes to a close with another chorus. Thrilling stuff.
A really special touch was the inclusion of Baudelaire’s poem; “The Drunk” – in French no less. It really hit home with the audience despite what Julia said was her “bad French” it was a lovely thought and the audience roared in appreciation.
The latter parts of the set were filled with sing-alongs and stories and very endearing interactions from our stars. “My House Your House” and “Snow” were a beautiful and engaging ending to the main set. Leaving us whistling and stomping our approval and request for more.
The penultimate highlight for me was the encore number “Chocolate and Cigarettes” which was delivered impromptu on request from some weary travelers. It felt like everyone in the building was rooting for her to remember the chords. And once she got it, wow she really got it. It felt like Chritine McVie performing “Songbird” just for me (if you don’t get the reference, take four minutes and do yourself the favor).
The last thing is, these folks love Neil Young and why shouldn’t they, but on this night it translated into the most unexpectedly inspired cover of “Harvest Moon”. I knew it was a possibility they would play it, but it took a good 30 seconds before I was truly convinced this was it, it’s a departure in style from the classic track you remember.
All in all. I hope to see Angus & Julia Stone again.
Review – Mike Rogers
Photos – Arianne Bergeron