Live review: Angus Stone + Steve Smyth – The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, November 2012

A packed Hi-Fi (on a night that sees Radiohead playing just up the road at the Entertainment Centre) is the venue on a rainy Brisbane evening, as the Angus Stone show rolls into town for the fifth stop of his Broken Brights tour. Having only ever heard rave reviews about him – and his sister Julia for that matter – but never seen him live myself, I’m here with a slate that’s as clean as a bean and a readiness to absorb the young New South Welshman’s charming folk-rock and psychedelic leanings. Sure, the crowd is made up of 90% girls, 5% brow-beaten boyfriends, and the rest of us are just wondering what the fuck we’re doing here, but with a drink in hand and a perch by the steps, the view is looking pretty good.

The surprisingly aggro-fuelled audience is already fired up by the time support Steve Smyth and his drummer saunter onto the stage, looking like lost Allman Brothers with an enviable array of angular facial hair and locks. “Good evening Brisbane, how are you this evening?” offers the singer, before setting forth on a varied selection of era-bending whiskey-soaked blues, gruff rock, and indie; combining the lot to craft perfectly-poised walls of noise that make the audience stop chattering and listen, impressed. As he swings his SG about like he’s trying to hit a persistent fly, Smyth sings in a voice that is alternatively coarse, clean, and at times even veers into falsetto territory. He ultimately grinds out a singularly bloody beautiful set of songs that leaves me, and I bet many others in the room, wanting to check him out further. Well played sir.

Angus Stone and his band stroll onto the stage in a haze of purple and red lights to the sounds of cheers from all corners. It’s clear by the sudden frenzy among many of the girls present that the singer’s appeal is greatly helped by the fact he’s a pretty handsome lad. How much of his appeal is based on that remains to be seen, although it’s clear that his simple and direct outlook on life is certainly a crowd-pleaser. As the singer and his band run through songs from his new album, with an extended ukulele wig-out thrown in for good measure, a large chunk of the audience sings along in a display of devoted fandom. By the fifth track ‘Bird on The Buffalo’ Stone addresses the crowd – something that he doesn’t seem to be naturally comfortable with – telling us that “when I have time off I like to sit on the couch and roll a big joint and watch television.” Well, who doesn’t, Angus?
‘Broken Brights’ and ‘Monsters’ again induce gargantuan sing-alongs, before Stone, implicating one particularly lairy rum-sodden girl, tells the audience “if anyone next to you is talking shit, tell them to shut up or else they never will. Their whole lives!” Cue massive cheers from all around, including the totally incognizant Bundy girl.

Towards the end of the evening I think I ‘get’ Angus Stone. His tunes are simple and sweet. His near-incoherent mumblings are ludicrously charming. He’s a hairy, earthy scruff that girls go ape-shit for. What else is there to say? The stratosphere awaits.

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