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Gig Review: Boy And Bear @ The East Brunswick Club, 23rd October

Last night Boy And Bear played what I believe was one of their first ever Melbourne headline shows. They have developed out of sight as a band since I first saw them at Homebake last year, and this was easily the most complete set I’ve seen them play to date.

First up however was The Chemist. I arrived at the venue in time to see all of their set, having recently been blown away by their stunning video for Lullaby #1 (Mercy). I was really excited to see these guys live for the first time, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

They played a highly polished set spearheaded by the aforementioned Lullaby #1 (Mercy), which was simply sublime. It is such a uniquely surreal, relaxed but yet somehow slightly menacing song (it begins with the refrain of “I want to believe in mercy”), set to the backdrop of a xylophone playing a lullaby tune. I picked up their ‘Lullabies’ EP after the show, and it is already on high rotation.

Stars was also great, and definitely deserves all the airplay and attention it has gained the band. I say it a lot, but it really does feel like a privilege to see bands of this calibre as opening acts. The Chemist were simply brilliant, and I would have been more than happy to pay the ticket price just for this set. It certainly won’t be the last time I see them live.

But of course Boy And Bear were the main act here, and the crowd gathered rapidly around the front of the stage as their arrival neared. These guys have risen absurdly fast in the Australian music scene, which is evidenced by a coveted spot opening for Mumford And Sons on their most recent tour here.

From the moment Boy And Bear walked out on stage they were in their element, and played a set that demonstrated perfectly why they have a UK tour coming up. They played a surprisingly hit-filled beginning to their set: both The Storm and Blood To Gold made fairly early appearances.

These guys have an incredible live sound. At once they manage to have some pretty fierce instrumentation, setting a very fast and energetic pace, as well as some of the most perfect harmonising vocals I have ever heard. When all of the band members sing at the same time, they really do create some moments of sheer magic.

They seemed very thankful to be playing in Melbourne, and Dave Hosking was as always the perfect frontman. He’s definitely channeling some semblance of Brandon Flowers. The middle of their set saw some newer songs make an appearance, which quietened the very energetic crowd slightly (I’m pretty sure at one point Dave described us as “The most rowdy crowd ever”), however were still thoroughly enjoyable. It sounds like they have a few good unreleased tracks under their belt, and their debut full-length release is certainly one to watch for.

The magnificent Rabbit Song of course made an appearance, and it was just perfect live. One of the highlights of the set for me however was when the opening acts joined Boy And Bear on stage for a rendition of Bon Iver’s sublime Flume. It was a very crowded stage indeed, but somehow they made it just work, which is a real achievement when the original recording thrives on being so sparse. I’ve heard them cover Flume live several times before, but never with this many voices, and the harmonising was really something to behold. I certainly hope Boy And Bear don’t retire the cover, as they said they were planning on doing.

“We won’t be doing an encore,” said Dave, to groans of disappointment from the crowd. Personally I liked the move however, especially when it was followed up by the one and only Mexican Mavis. The extended live version of this track is fantastic, and elevated the set to a whole other level as everyone in the crowd sung along loudly to the trademark ‘Aaaaah’s at the start of the song.

“As they came out of the sunshine, the flowers nestled in their hair”.

It was the perfect end to a great night of music. There really is nothing I can possibly complain about. The Chemist were a wonderful support act, Boy And Bear were in their element and as enjoyable as ever, and their joint cover of Bon Iver was magic.

For such a young band these guys have a surprising amount of hits under their belt, partly because every single track on their debut EP could easily be a single. And they played every one of them last night, to a sold out and adoring crowd, at the first Melbourne show of this tour to go on sale, in a genuine and talented performance.

What’s not to like?

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One Response to “Gig Review: Boy And Bear @ The East Brunswick Club, 23rd October”

  1. Brilliant gig (on Sunday). I love Boy and Bear!
    Did Passenger play (first) on Saturday night? He was really amazing, I have had his two albums on high rotation since. I highly recommend you check him/them out :)

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