Julia Stone

Review Date November 4, 2012

Review By Keith Clark

Location Thekla, Bristol

The last time that Julia Stone played in Bristol it was as one half of a duo with her younger brother Angus but this year the Australians have put the family business on hold for a while to concentrate on their own individual projects. For Julia Stone that includes releasing a new album under her own name and embarking on the current lengthy solo European tour. Well, not quite solo for she’d brought along a band and a support act. Opening the gig was Ryan Keen from South Devon who headlined his own gig at this same venue only a week ago. It was an impressive performance by a singer-songwriter who has been attracting a lot of media attention of late. His guitar playing was percussive and while there were instrumental tricks he didn’t overdo them. Indeed on his standout song “Focus,” he kept his playing relatively simple. His songs were well-crafted, he had an interesting breathy voice and the harmonies, with his percussionist and backing vocalist Lee Levant, were well thought out and tightly executed. On his closing song, “Trouble,” he had no trouble at all in getting the appreciative audience singing along. He has already been dubbed “the next big thing’ by some music writers and Radio 1 DJs, which might be over-hyping things, but you never know; they may be right. Angus and Julia Stone have always attracted such exaggerated praise from the music press and on the basis of this gig Julia Stone could easily find herself on many of those New Year “One’s to watch’ lists as a performer in her own right. Accompanied by Russ Owen from Cat Empire, bassist Josh Kaufman and Ray Rizzo on drums she stepped on stage clutching her trumpet and opened with “The Shit That They’re Feeding You” which she released on an EP earlier this year. Most of the songs however were taken from the new record, BY THE HORNS, although there was at least one nod to the duo’s back catalogue with a version of “And The Boys” that she reminded us was usually the point during their duo gigs when Angus left the stage and left her to it. In many ways she has taken a new direction, the new songs being more indie rock with the 1960s flower power folksiness, replaced by a new heaviness, particularly on the new album’s title track “By The Horns,” the dramatic “Somehow” and “Let’s Forget All The Things That We Say.” One of the biggest reactions was to her version of “Better Shape Up” from Grease, and surprisingly the only too familiar song worked extremely well in this slowed and stripped down form. It wasn’t the only cover, for there was a very different version of the rather surreal “Bloodbuzz Ohio” by Brooklyn band The National and a jolly jazzy reworking of “Just Blew In From The Windy City” that sounded a world away from the Doris Day original. Her voice is quirky, breathy, undisciplined but has a surprising range, her performance was full of drama and the songs were loaded with even more anguish, heartbreak, betrayal, vulnerability and pain than you’d find on a Joni Mitchell CD. She sang from the heart with such honest emotion that you couldn’t help but empathise and wish that someone close to her would give her a big hug. It was not however a downbeat performance and between songs she was very funny; her stories were mostly self-deprecating and the closing number, a close-harmony version of the old Temptation’s classic “My Girl,” was full of giggles. The brother and sister duo have stated that this is only a temporary hiatus and that they will be back and recording together but whatever the future holds for the family duo, Julia Stone has more than enough class to make it as a performer in her own right.

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