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Boy And Bear @ The Forum, 18th Of May

It seems like an eternity ago when I saw a bunch of nervous guys play their first ever festival set in a cramped tent at Homebake. Since then Boy And Bear’s rise in Australian music has been nothing short of meteoric, and at no time has this been more clear than last night, when they played the second of two sold out shows at The Forum in Melbourne. And it was immediately obvious that the band have polished their live act to the point now where they are perfectly comfortable with playing a one and a half hour set in front of thousands of people, which it really didn’t seem like they were as little as a year ago. I guess you can call Boy And Bear an accomplished live Australian band now, and sure enough this show was pretty hard to find fault in.

Ultimately there’s not a whole lot I can say about the band that I haven’t already said in one of the countless other live reviews I’ve done of their shows, so I’ll keep this brief. It was easily the most confident I have seen the band on stage to date. It really seems like the band members are all becoming very confident in their own role within the band, and it’s very obvious that they’ve been playing live together for quite a few years now. An alternate version of Rabbit Song opened proceedings to great effect: I’ve noticed that Boy And Bear like to change up some of their songs a bit live, and it generally works very well. In this case the song packed a bit of extra punch and was the perfect way to open their set, leading into Lordy May.

Milk And Sticks still sounds just enormous live, to a much greater extent than you would expect from a band like Boy And Bear. It was massive last night, fulling up The Forum and really setting the crowd off. But if I have one criticism of this show it’s that the gap between ‘the singles’ and ‘the rest’ is still quite stark when it comes to Boy And Bear’s music. That’s not to say that their lesser-known songs were bad, but rather that they were completely dwarfed by their bigger numbers, both in terms of band energy and crowd involvement. This is to be expected of a band who have released just the one album of course, but it only became obvious when the middle of Boy And Bear’s set saw mostly smaller songs off their debut album as well as a couple of new songs, while their set was bookmarked by the singles.

The standout in the middle part of their set was of course their cover of Fall At Your Feet, which you would think was the answer to world hunger by the way it was received, predictably acting as a magnet for the crowd’s many cameras and phones which shot out of pockets almost instantaneously as the band whipped out the banjo for the track. It was of course a very enjoyable singalong, and it still remains an undeniably fantastic cover. The band played two new songs throughout the night, which I believed were called Three-Headed Woman and Boxer. The former was a bit uninspiring in my opinion, but Boxer showed a hell of a lot of promise and it will be interesting to see how the song develops.

Feeding Line  signaled the end to the slight lull in the middle of the set and heralded the beginning of the end, which would turn out to be a brilliant twenty-minutes-or-so of music. Once again the song sounded immense live. When they want to, Boy And Bear really can kick up a storm on stage. I still remember hearing the song for the first time live, long before it was recorded, when Dave Hosking screwed up the whistling segment and had to start the chorus over again. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately, given how entertaining it was), there was no repeat of this last night. Big Man was possibly the best ‘quieter’ song of the band’s set, and it was obvious by this stage that they were riding a wave of momentum that was going to carry them to the end of the show in style.

Sure enough, Mexican Mavis was easily my favourite song of the set, featuring a fantastically overdramatic and violent ending that led into Golden Jubilee, a wonderful track that finished the night on a real high and with a lot of energy. It had been a really enjoyable gig from a band who have come so far in what is a relatively short space of time. Like I said, there was no way that Boy And Bear could have played a set of this length a year ago with this much ease, and I think that’s a real testament both to their development as a band and to the strength and depth of ‘Moonfire’.

Their banter probably still needs a bit of work, given that most of it revolved around what clothes they were wearing, but ultimately this was actually pretty charming, and Hosking’s endearing swagger ensured that nothing the band did or said fell flat. There’s a good reason why Boy And Bear are so popular, and that is because they do what they do very, very well. It’s pretty amazing to think of where they may be in two or three years’ time, but, judging by last night, where they are right now is pretty great as well. 

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