Angus and Julia Stone, Victor Valdes @ The Tivoli, Brisbane (11/06/08)

An intriguing choice for a support act, Victor Valdes and his harp took us through a selection of traditional Mexican tunes, as well as popular Cuban patriotic anthem Guantanamera (butchered in the Holden Rodeo TV ad a few years ago), and the crowd-pleasing La Bamba. A member of Mexican folk group Tlen Huicani for many years before coming to Australia, Victor was spotted performing at a community centre in Sydney by Julia Stone, where she promptly invited him to join the group on their tour.

There’s something about the curtain raise that never fails to excite me, and with Angus and Julia Stone taking to the stage for their first song, Paper Aeroplane from 2006 debut EP, Chocolates and Cigarettes, Brisbane fell further in love with the Stones, with the sincerity that comes from sharing a close musical bonding experience and sonic journey, which is exactly what the siblings gave the audience tonight. The band took us on a carefully navigated voyage through material from their two EPs and debut album, A Book Like This, with crowd favourites including Silver Coin, Mango Tree, and The Beast. The minimalist set of stars, moon, sun and clouds, combined with the mostly azure lighting added to the sense of being on an exotic expedition, with alternating day and night scenes accompanying the songs, along with a make-believe elephant in the back corner.

Joined by Mitchell Connelly on drums and Clay Macdonald on bass, Angus and Julia took the opportunity to showcase their breadth of musical proficiency, sharing the following instrumental duties between them: acoustic and electric guitars, piano, clarinet, trumpet, flugelhorn, harmonica, and slide guitar. To fill the brief moments between singing and playing, Julia twirled around the stage and delighted us with her dancing piano finger moves. In contrast, Angus is perhaps the most chilled-out vocalist and guitarist I’ve ever seen, although sometimes he slipped from his tranquil demeanour by offering up a supportive bearded-smile for his sister.

Highlights of tonight’s show included Victor joining Angus and Julia onstage for a harp, trumpet and trombone trio version of Another Day, Julia’s new song, For You, dedicated to her love (I think she said Gareth, but don’t quote me on that) who responded with a heavy metal song for her, as well as the terrifying full-size marionette puppets of Angus and Julia for Just a Boy, and the first encore, the aptly named, hauntingly heart aching, Bella.

You know that when you can hear the people around you breathing because they’ve finally stopped talking to listen to the music, that’s the sign that you’re in the midst of a collective musical epiphany. Indeed, with the exception of a couple of –  “woohoo’ing hooligans who probably should have been at Suncorp Stadium watching the State of Origin instead, there was a palpable intensity and earnestness in the crowd tonight that is so rarely found at gigs.

Leaving us feeling happy and loved after their closing song, A Book Like This, the punters streamed out of the Tivoli, asking each other who they loved more – Angus or Julia? The answer was simple, we love them both. If you were unlucky enough to miss out on experiencing the journey this time, then you need to make it a priority to get onboard for their next musical voyage when they return, or else stay cast adrift on the ocean of “could have, but did not”.