The audience was interesting, too. One had the sense that most of the congregation of the Gateway City Church, which holds services at the theatre every week, was in attendance. Which made the wholesale disrespect and discourtesy of said mass all the more surprising; with the odd patron seeing fit to talk through even the quietest moments. Which certainly didn't inspire any holy values in me: I found myself fantasising about what Tony Soprano might do in such a situation.
But that was the only distraction; albeit, quite an invasive one.
The concert was tantamount to sublime. Sensational Latin (Mexican) harpist, Victor Valdez, was support and, given, especially, that A & J are a tough act to precede, let alone follow, with, one presumes, an ardent & impatient fan base in tow, he rendered a rousing reception, for music that has little to do with what most had come to see & hear. (This virtuosic prodigy was also heard at Womadelaide, earlier this year & has been seen around Sydney, playing his Paraguayan instrument, not least with madcap outfit, Waiting For Guinness.)
Speaking of prodigies, they rarely, if ever, come any more prodigious than the Stones (in this case, we're not talking the Rolling variety). Angus, who, in his facial hirsuteness, looked like he'd just stepped out of a cave, is a beautiful acoustic, electric and slide guitarist, who dabbles in 'bone. But his key instrument has to be his remarkable voice, with a high, pure tone at which one can't help but marvel. Julia has the more idiosyncratic vocal delivery, which coincides with her semi-balletic, little-girl-locked-in-the-attic stage persona. Her evening dress teetered on her body, rather than being worn, as she showed her talents on harmonica, guitar, piano and, particularly, trumpet. As with her bro', the word versatility comes, readily, to mind. Meanwhile, some (finally!) very inventive lighting brought the backdrop, of sun, moon & stars, vividly to life. It was all quite mesmerising.
The sound was pretty damn good, too! And they were backed by a killer rhythm section, including longstanding drummer, Mitch Connelly.
Most mesmerising of all, however, are A & J S's songs. Alongside their extraordinary musicianship and compelling stage personalities, they're so impressive one wonders how it can be they're not seriously famous; rather than just a bit. Fortunately, for those, such as I, who've been too late in really discovering the depth and breadth of their abilities, we're just in time to intercept their debut album, A Book Like This (to follow their Chocolates & Cigarettes, Heart Full Of Wine & The Beast EPs, not to mention the nostalgically analogue vinyl single, Private Lawns), comprising a baker's dozen which, if the live situation is any reflection, make for a very good book indeed. One gathers the distinct impression each is born of experience and, as such, comes from the heart. Coming from the heart, each, & every, successfully seeks a return there. They certainly found their mark, with me.
It'll come as no surprise to fans, but Just A Boy is a case-in-point. With it's gently strummed guitar, tickled, tinkling background piano, underpinning bass, upfront slapping of brushes on the snare & splashes of blues harp, its lyrics are the clincher in its precise fulfilment of intention: to capture the wounding, searing pain & uncertainty of feelings we might characterise as love, while we stumble through our lives, trying to define and confine it. Well, that's my take, anyway. It's main catchcry, 'I don't know why', practically says it all. If I've caught it right: 'I bit my tongue, in the arc of conversation'. Who hasn't, in those impossibly awkward, tortured, hormonally-charged, overheated moments, at the beginning of the quest, for the unholy grail?
The intriguing thing is that one also garners the idea that, quite apart from their personifications onstage, Angus & Julia are quite different people; distinctive, each to their own. An enthralling aspect of such is that they are, at the same time, entirely complimentary, in the snuggest possible sense. Perhaps only siblings and, dare I say, a certain amount of rivalry, can effect that. But we could speculate on that all night. Just as we could whether their bursting-at-the-seams capabilities are the result of nature or nurture. Their parents, their parent's parents, and so on, were musical, so, it's likely to be both. But many others have some, if not all, of this, in their corner, yet do too little, or nothing, with it. A & J, by stark contrast, have, I imagine, well-and-truly upped the family ante.
One thing's for sure, their magic isn't only apparent on record; it beguilingly weaves its way around a cold theatre, on a wet Wollongong night. No mean feat. A & J are living legends. And their legends will grow. Or I'm a monkey's uncle.
Angus and Julia Stone
Tuesday June 10 Lake Kawana Community Centre, Sunshine Coast*
Wednesday June 11 Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane (SOLD OUT)
Thursday June 12 Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane
Friday June 13 Gold Coast Arts Centre*
Saturday June 14 Byron Cultural & Community Centre * (SOLD OUT)
Sunday June 15 Byron Cultural & Community Centre *
Tuesday June 17 Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday June 18 Enmore Theatre, Sydney * (SOLD OUT)
Thursday June 19 Newcastle City Hall * (SOLD OUT)
Friday June 20 Regent Theatre Wollongong *
Wednesday June 25 The Forum Theatre Melbourne
Thursday June 26 The Forum Theatre Melbourne (SOLD OUT)
Friday June 27 Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide *
Saturday June 28 Octagon Theatre, University of WA *(SOLD OUT)
Sunday June 29 Octagon Theatre, University of WA *(SOLD OUT)
*These shows are ALL AGES
For ticketing information go to www.angusandjuliastone.com