20/04/2010 | Angus & Julia Stone – Glee Club, Birmingham

Lisa Ward

Angus and Julia Stone are something akin to beauty and the beast. Julia, complete with flowing dress, commands the stage, dancing, singing and instrument swapping her way through the set. Meanwhile Angus, with shaggy hair and unkempt beard, takes a laidback approach, barely moving from his space on the stage. The dynamic of the duo is apparent from the word go. Whilst Angus’ contributions are necessary to add depth and weight to their sound it is Julia who takes charge, reducing her brother to the part of backing vocals for the majority of the show.

They open with Santa Monica Dreams, which has an extra power on stage. Whilst the song drifts off as a filler track on their latest album Down The Way, tonight the melodies sparkle, less redundant than it’s album version. In fact, though the new album seems wholly downbeat and conceptual in contrast to their début A Book Like This, live it’s a different matter.  Julia thrashes at her keyboard during I’m Not Yours whilst retaining perfect control of her signature innocent vocals and Yellow Brick Road is given extra zest with Angus’ faultless guitar work. Nevertheless it’s still the old songs which dazzle most, Wasted and Soldier being stripped back to raw melodies and allowing Julia’s vocals to really shine.

It would be easy to draw similarities between Julia and the likes of PJ Harvey, both adopting an ethereal presence, but mid set the parallels between Cerys Matthews and Julia become startling apparent. Her laid back cover of the Grease classic, You’re The One That I Want, sees her adopt Cerys’ lazy vocal style, allowing the lyric to drip off her tongue whilst also capturing many of Cerys’ seductive mannerisms. Later, her moving rendition of their early track Chocolate And Cigarettes reconfirms that Julia has the same enigmatic charm as the Catatonia starlet, able to hypnotize an audience and keep them hanging on her every word.

When Angus is given his chance to shine he grasps it with both hands, confirming his vocal talent. However it comes in the form of Hollywood, a song which originally featured Julia’s voice and in this performance it is still her trumpet accompaniment which is the lifeblood of the song .  Even Angus’ rendition of Just A Boy seems flat, as if he has given up desiring equal status, content simply to allow Julia to take the spotlight. Happily accepting of this Julia does just that, closing the set with a rendition of Private Lawns which is both terse and transcendent.

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