Photo by David Harris
For all the adversity the band have experienced, getting back on the stage in the first place was a triumph in itself.
It’s been a while since Boy & Bear were on stage. Four years, to be precise. But if this show is any indicator, they are back, and their audience is exactly where they left them: on the edge of their seats.
Frontman Dave Hosking seemed refreshed by the break from music, with a clear, strong vocal performance. You wouldn’t have guessed that his last four years have been plagued by chronic illness, misdiagnosis and debilitating pain.
During opening track ‘Old Town Blues’, his relaxed body language was striking, languid and low energy. For some other frontmen to behave this way, it could come across as apathy, but he was unmistakably present, the furthest thing from bored.
Late in the show, ‘Feeding Line’ was met with a palpable excitement. It seems the crowd had first heard this track in 2011 and fallen in love with the band. Though there was a mix of old and new material, it was tracks from Moonfire and Harlequin Dream that created the most memorable moments in the evening.
‘Three Headed Woman’ was one of the most notable performances of the night, with the harmonies soaring to new heights and the slow, deliberate pace of the music creating an interesting soundscape.
‘Rabbit Song’ showed the band at their best, all deep bass, monotonous drums and slick harmonies. The repetitive bass was a solid foundation for soaring harmonies; the whole shebang sounding far larger than the five-piece.
Phones were whipped out across The Forum for Instastories as the first notes of ‘Milk & Sticks’ played. Disregard the beats per minute, how many drops, and how dope the drops are – in the modern age, the Instastory influx is as strong an indicator of a ‘banger’ as there can be.
Hosking does have a uniquely beautiful voice. It’s smooth and sweet, like honey drizzled over the, at times, staccato feel of the rest of the band’s arrangements.
However, despite the undeniable beauty of Boy & Bear, their songs do have a tendency to bleed into one another. For someone not so well acquainted with the band, the evening would have felt a little less special, with a few standout moments rather than a whole standout evening.
The between-song banter isn’t the most captivating, perhaps they’re rusty after so long off the road.
But if this is them rusted up, then those that await their shows across Australia and Europe into 2020 are in for a treat. Because even at their most tin man state, they are a truly lovely band.
And this was never more evident than their beautiful cover of Crowded House’s ‘Fall At Your Feet’, originally recorded for the 2010 Finn brothers’ tribute album He Will Have His Way. Pulled out for the encore – their first in a decade, the band had a self-imposed ban on the show ending tradition – the song resonated across The Forum with the kind of gut-wrenching beauty that makes the rest of the world fall away.
Highlight: ‘Fall At Your Feet’.
Lowlight: A distinct lack of an ‘Old Town Road’ cover. As if you wouldn’t.
Crowd favourite: ‘Feeding Line’ could not be beat.