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Live Review: Boy & Bear, Holy Holy @ The Tivoli, 13.09.14

It has been a remarkable five years for Boy & Bear.

Seemingly, it took no time at all for a solo project by vocalist Dave Hosking to morph into a collaborative, indie-folk project that quickly charmed audiences near and far. Singles such as ‘Mexican Mavis’ and the band’s debut LP ‘Moonfire’ lead on to 2013’s ‘Harlequin Dream’, the follow-up that proved Boy & Bear’s longevity in this ever-changing music world we’re in. On entering a sold out Tivoli, it was clear that the band’s sincerity and introspective style had really struck a chord with audiences from all walks of life…this was one show that fans were incredibly excited for. 

It’s rare to see supports packing out a venue, so it was extremely refreshing to see Holy Holy’s set being opened in front of a full Tivoli crowd. Good work Brisbane, I’m proud. With hats, beards, and pastoral rock aplenty, the duo (and friends) once again cemented why they’re earning a reputation as one of the strongest live acts around. Their sound was lush and tight, with tracks such as current single ‘History, ‘House of Cards’, and ‘Pretty Strays’ standing out amongst a set of story-led lyrics, full band crescendos, and outstanding performances from Timothy Carroll (vocals) and Oscar Dawson (guitar). The screams that erupted at the opening riff breakthrough single ‘Impossible Like You’ made it clear that the crowd were completely on board with the band, and with charming banter that linked their guitars to Dirty Dancing, the boys definitely earned a fair few new fans. The guy behind me kept exclaiming, “I like it!” so he’s on board at least.

On their 102nd show of the year (and second show of the day), Boy & Bear quietly entered the stage to be met by a choir of excited screams. Sure, their music may be on the restrained side, but their fans love them deeply and want to make it known. “Get up and dance girl, I’m in a rock ‘n roll band”; launching into ‘Bridges’, the outfit powered through a ‘Harlequin Dream’-heavy set, throwing in some older favourites for good measure. What was most remarkable about the band’s set was how record-perfect they managed to stay. Dave Hosking’s voice soared effortlessly through the vocal lines of ‘Rabbit Song’, ‘Three Headed Woman’, and title track ‘Harlequin Dream’ (with added sax solo), often supported with full band harmonies that caused songs such as ‘Lordy May’ to soar. Tim Hart’s drumming was on point, as was Killian Gavin’s guitar, and with the help of Jon Hart and Dave Symes the band transitioned through songs effortlessly and seamlessly. Bands suffering with awkward between song pauses: go to a B&B show and take note.

At first, Boy & Bear seemed to be too calm on stage, too restrained in their performance. However, as the show went on, it became apparent that this was a large part of their charm. No performance gimmicks were used, letting the songs, the musicianship, and the band’s charm speak volumes. Looking around, the crowd didn’t need anything more from the band to be completely enthralled; one dancing lady started to ‘raise the roof’ during upbeat favourites such as ‘Milk and Sticks’, whilst a banjo-led mashup of Crowded House’s ‘Fall At Your Feet’ and Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’ triggered the biggest sing-along of the night. Singles ‘Part Time Believer’ and ‘Southern Sun’ stood out as crowd favourites, however, it was the stomping kick drum of ‘Feeding Line’ that sent the audience into elation. Instrument swaps and airborne Care Bears kept things interesting, and as the band exited the stage after striking closer ‘Big Man’, any thoughts questioning their approach to performance had been smashed.

It’s clear that Boy & Bear have had a tiring year – they admitted to googling the lyrics to ‘Arrow Flight’ that afternoon as they’d forgotten them seven consecutive times – but a great band consistently delivers, and that’s exactly what Boy & Bear did. There’s no doubt that these lads will be around for a while longer, so raise your glasses to the next five years *chink*. 

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