Friday, 4 July 2014

Angus & Julia Stone, Amsterdams​e Bostheater​, 1 July 2014

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, where the sun always shines and the air is always warm, there lived a young man. A young man who for some unknown reason dreamt of living where the sun rarely shines and the air is rarely warm, but where adventure and new experiences are always at hand.

One day a young and beautiful woman arrived in this land, with amazing tales of such places and who dreamt of similar ideas. In an attempt to bridge the gap between their lands, the young man turned to the only source of true connection he knew. Music.

He introduced her to the new debut album A Book Like This, by Angus & Julia Stone, in exchange for her cultural offering – Robyn, by Robyn.


Despite their clear differences, a friendship was born and both albums were embraced by the young man and young woman, and they came to represent all that was on offer in terms of adventure and new experiences.

Numerous years have now passed since those early days, with many lands travelled, meals eaten, friendships made, relationships formalized and even a young man of their own born. And through it all, both these albums have remained a soundtrack to their adventure, whether it is in the home they made together, on the dance floor at their wedding, in holiday homes with family and friends or even live in front of them in some of the best venues around the world.

So when Angus & Julia Stone announced that there were coming back to Amsterdam and playing at the Amsterdamse Bostheatre, it was an easy decision that they would be buying some tickets and adding another chapter to their story.

For those who have not had the pleasure, the Amsterdamse Bos is the Amsterdam Forest. A huge parkland on the outskirts of Amsterdam, approximately 1,000 hectares or 3 times the size of New York’s Central Park. Deep within this beautiful setting of huge trees, lakes and manicured grass is the Bostheatre, an open air amphitheater that can accommodate around 1,500 guests.

You could not ask for a more magical setting to host a brother-sister folk duo from Sydney’s northern beaches. On a cloudless summer evening we made our way there by bike, enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest. The venue itself is nestled amongst a section of huge trees, effectively secluding it from the surrounding park area.

The amphitheater is a traditional setup of a semi-circle of wooden benches, rising in tiers away from a large stage that had been set up with some shelter for all the musical equipment, amps and lights already set up and ready to roll as the crowd arrived. Back behind the venue there were some options to buy food. All high quality, delicious looking option which were made on the spot. As good as the food was, the process was sadly inefficient and the lines and wait time were quite extreme.

The waiting crowd were entertained by I am Oak, a Utrecht based musician who played acoustic guitar, at times with a backing beat he made and sung in English. It was a nice set and was an obvious fit with the folk-looking crowd that was gathering.

Despite some delays due to planes being diverted over the forest from neighboring Schiphol airport, we were assured by the MC that this was only temporary and the band would soon be on. Eventually Angus & Julia emerged through the trees accompanied by their drummer, bass player and a keyboardist.

The start of the set was heavily laden with tracks from their upcoming third album, which is yet to be released. Although the songs sounded good, it did create a little bit of a flat start with no one really knowing the songs. Angus and Julia were also a little slow to start, with no real introductions or explanations of the songs. So although the sold out crowd were attentive, there was not a lot of response or energy coming from them.

Slowly everyone warmed up – Julia literally, with someone in the crowd lending her a jacket as she joked about not dressing appropriately and being freezing. The usual banter started to come from her, with her unmistakable laugh. Angus’ standard impersonation of a homeless bum was spot on, particularly when he thanked the forest for having them and how he had enjoyed his sleep under its trees earlier in the day.

The bigger songs started to flow and the crowd started to come alive. Although I think the open-air venue struggles to capture the energy the same way a regular venue where the noise is bouncing around the walls and ceiling. 

Even though there were not as many tracks from A book Like This as we would have liked, it was a strong and entertaining performance. And the venue itself lifted the show from something that might have been less memorable at a regular venue to something that will be long remembered in the growing story we have with this band.

 Photos courtesy of Live At Amsterdamse Bos facebook page & JJ's iPhone (thanks!)


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