Friday 22nd February, 2013. Review by Christine Savage.
Photos by Anni Fordham.
It’s been said that bringing secular music into a sacred environment is a method used by music makers to legitimise their practice. This can be said of Julia Stone‘s Heavenly Sounds concert held in St. Joseph’s Church in Subiaco. Whilst the venue was a beautiful and atmospheric setting, it seems that the church was used as a locus for the concert to enable the singer to accomplish a tour as a solo artist. Combining a beautiful songstress’s harrowing voice with an acoustically resonant venue should be a recipe for a mesmerizing show. At times this was the case, but at times it fell short.
Vance Joy opened the sweet and soulful night with well-rounded songs, delicate melodies and a confidence on stage that drew the audience in. The Melbourne based artist is relatively unknown in Perth, but that didn’t stop him winning over the crowd with his thoughtful lyrics and rhythmically driven tunes. Playing a combination of ukelele, acoustic and electric guitar as well as singing, Joy’s talent gelled with the other musicians who joined the stage for Julia Stone’s set, where he played a dulcet duet with the songstress in a rendition of ‘Santa Monica Dream.’ A modest but natural talent, Joy’s seamless vocals and mellow, mature sound position him as a hidden treasure of the folk scene.
A 40 minute break between the two acts broke the calm and tranquil ambience while audiences waited patiently for her arrival. Beginning with an hymn-like a cappella number, Stone retrieved the audience’s full attention.The backing band, composed of some seriously talented and often show-stealing musicians, gave a rich thread upon which Stone could weave her stories.
The pleasant but somewhat unexciting performance had many moments that could have been memorable, but fell short of the mark for many reasons. Stone’s vocal prowess was overshadowed by her need to show it off, often detracting from the soulful qualities of her songs, though her vocal abilities have matured and were able to soar and roar with power at times.
The band swapped instruments throughout the set, though they had few chances to demonstrate their skills on an individual level, as their playing instead got lost in over-produced arrangements. The four-part vocal harmonies were pleasant, but at times needed to be stripped back to let each instrumentalists speak and balance out the songs.
Overall, Stone’s set, including songs from her latest album By The Horns, lacked the whimsical pop appeal and unique vocal styles that we’ve come to expect from the artist as part of brother-sister-duo Angus and Julia Stone, whose songs were re-worked to sustain the set, along with a number of covers including David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love.’ However, full of colour and charm, both Stone’s vocals and personality were on display throughout the night, enchanting the audience in an elegant setting.