Beach-front; a sold-out crowd buzzes in the heat of a Byron Bay summer evening (18 November), after the sultry and stunning vocal performance from support band All Our Exes Live In Texas.
The Beach Hotel comfortably holds the at-capacity crowd, and though excitable and anticipatory, despite being the first night of schoolies, the audience remains on an even keel.
The lights dim and as Credence Clearwater’s ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ blasts through the sound system, the crowd singing along, fervently and loud, the five piece that has become one of Australia’s great music treasures, Boy & Bear, stroll on with all the cool confidence their music embodies.
Straight to the point, they start with the second single and title track from the most recent album ‘Limit Of Love’, to the audience’s approval. Their playing is tight and sharp from the first note. The rigorous international touring schedule for this band from Sydney is evidenced in the maturity and confidence of their playing.
Playing within and to their strengths, each member is astute, and their musical chemistry is impressive. They keep the set sharp and punchy throughout, hitting straight into ‘Old Town Blues’ with a bigger, pulsing bass and more pronounced synths than on the recording, and head into new single ‘Where’d You Go’.
They roll through a string of favourites including ‘Harlequin Dream’, ‘Rabbit Song’ ‘Part Time Believer’, and new ‘A Thousand Faces’ to keep the audience warm, while also throwing in that light and shade with ballads like ‘Just Dumb’ and ‘Back Down The Black’, that still manage to pack a punch. They hold the crowd even when the tempo slows.
You could accuse Boy & Bear, the live band, particularly frontman David Hosking, of not meeting their full performance potential, and playing to the audience's want for ‘a show’ more.
But appreciating these guys as musicians’ musicians will negate any need for more than what they do. The songwriting is rich and unpredictable, which is a harder feat than some might think, especially when it maintains such a strong pop sensibility and obviously appeals to large audiences the world over.
After announcing they, refreshingly, don’t do encores, another immediate jump into their big hit and Triple J Hottest 100 favourite ‘Southern Sun’ takes us into the big end, their blatant nod to Dire Straits, with ‘Walk The Wire’.
The texture applied from each members’ instinct, knowing when to pull back, knowing when not to over play, the subtleties are what makes Boy & Bear one of Australia’s most-loved bands in the last few years, and will continue to grow into one of our greats for years to come.
In a climate where music charts and radios are flooded with temporary, disposable tracks with nothing to say and total lack of heart in both the craft and the product, it’s bands like this that keep the hope alive for lovers of the real deal.