We at Casual Band Blogger have a love for Boy & Bear that goes back a long time. Top that off with touring supports Art Of Sleeping and Montaigne, and a night at Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall, I was pretty psyched for the night ahead.
It was encouraging to see a large crowd formed for opener Montaigne, and her unbelievably powerful voice and presence projected singles like ‘I’m A Fantastic Wreck’, ‘I Am Not An End’, ‘Clip My Wings’ and freshie ‘In The Dark’ in a stunning manner. With real charisma backing up the talent, Montaigne truly has everything one could want from a live performer.
Following that were Brisbane-based Art Of Sleeping who released one of my favourite records of 2015, Shake Shiver, after an extended time away honing their craft. All the better, too, because their live set is energetic, tight, and the vocals from lead man Caleb Hodges are beautiful. Throwing out some favourites from their 2012 EP Like A Thief, amongst album tracks, the group’s evolution was clear. Newer tracks like ‘Bleeding Out’ and ‘The Cage’ really allow Hodges’ voice to shine and there’s no question about the quintet’s ability to perform as a group. Tight, talented and enjoying their time on stage, Art Of Sleeping won’t be overshadowed by anyone.
The progression in Boy & Bear’s songwriting is clear. 2015’s Limit Of Love saw the band write as a group for the first time, as compared to previous releases largely written by lead singer Dave Hosking. Another point of difference on the record was their experience recording live- and this no doubt impacted the way they prepared for this tour. This is a group who have always been known for their phenomenal live show and this hasn’t changed.
In their 90 minute set the Sydneysiders put it all out their under a gorgeous light show that impressed the huge crowd. Ensuring we got a good taste of the newer tracks live, they played a large portion of the new record including highlights ‘Just Dumb’, ‘Hollow Ground’ and namesake ‘Limit Of Love’. Amongst those we were treated to those from earlier albums, and even debut EP With Emperor Antarctica. Only adding to the quality of the set, the group threw out their recent triple j Like A Version- Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’, keeping their reputation of picking ideal covers for their skill set and nailing them every time.
Endearingly, drummer Tim took a moment to mention that it was singer Dave’s birthday (surprisingly enough the first time the band had played on a member’s birthday in seven years of intense touring) and got the room starting in singing a loud rendition of Happy Birthday.
As expected, the group gave a little heads up that they’ve never performed an encore even if it’s demanded, it’s just not something they’ll ever feel comfortable doing. With that, Hosking promised three more songs rather than the regular two and got back into it.
The absolute set highlight was ‘Big Man’- a beautifully written song that is consistently performed with genuine emotion and always manages to move the crowd. Closing the colossal set out with ‘Walk The Wire’, I can’t imagine anyone having left disappointed (my only disappointment was being elbowed in the face by a drunken woman screaming about her ex-husband…)
Boy & Bear may have surprised more than a few people with the announcement of a show at Festival Hall, but they certainly captivated the huge room and one could imagine they’d be welcome back.