Live Music + Gig Reviews

Angus and Julia Stone + Declan O’Rourke @ Troubadour, London

10 October 2006


The Troubadour Club on Old Brompton Road is a venue steeped in history.Folk legends from Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin have graced itstiny stage.

With private booths in which you can slip into the shadows, bar-roomtables and comfy benches, it should be a Boho venue par excellence, makingit all the more irritating that tonight’s admission is only gained after apointless altercation with the jobsworth door monkey who insists the presslist is closed until his ‘manager’ (who looks suspiciously like the barman)tells him otherwise. Eventually, musicOMH is ushered into the small and atthis stage still mostly empty venue only to have missed half of first actEd Valance.

This is a pity, as acoustic Ed and his plugged in buddy Simon arepeddling country-tinged guitar pop in between bickering entertainingly likean old married couple. Ed looks like a younger and even more mad-eyed WayneCoyne (which is no bad thing) with a voice that alternates between adenoidyDylan and high-pitched falsetto, both of which manage to remain verypleasantly harmonious amid spaghetti western riffs.

They’re followed by Declan O’Rourke, whose self-assured confidencemakes it clear he’s used to playing in front of crowds much larger than the150 or so he’s performing for tonight. Full of stage banter informing theaudience that Paul Weller choosing Galileo as the song he wishedhe’d written makes him feel, “Well… weller”, he plays new album BeyondKyabram track for track, along the way apologising for the naffness of LoveIs The Way only as an excuse to get the audience to sing along.

The intimate setting is a good advert for the juxtaposition of delicatestrength found all across the album, his deep voice carrying well in theenclosed space. Even in front of this crowd, he can pull off tracks thatsound like Crowded House or the Beautiful South as well asthose that could be ancient hymns plucked from a twisted folk past. Hethanks Jonathan Ross for already playing new single No Brakes (out onOctober 30th) and finishes, superbly unaccompanied, on Marrying The Sea TilDeath Do Us Part – a great advert for the strength of his voice.

O’Rourke would be a hard act for anyone to follow, and unfortunatelyAngus and Julia aren’t really up to the task. Their cutesy country fallsjust the wrong side of tweeness and Julia, in her ’50s picket-fence dress andplastic hair band comes across too much like Cerys Matthews doingJune Carter on a Stars In Their Eyes celebrity special. The additionof trumpets and the odd harmonica add to the sense of quirkiness for thesake of it and though Julia’s little-girl-smoking-60-a-day breathiness isinteresting, it’s not enough. A large criticism is that there’s not a lot ofdifference between one song and the next – some repetition in their set mayhave given it more depth.

In a small venue in front of barely more than a few dozen audience, Angusand Julia just about work but in a larger one they may not, although they’repleasant enough, a decent addition to the country-folk Troubadour tradition.For final song Here We Go Again, a Monkees-ish pop sensibility seemsto sneak in just under the ribbon. If they could build on this for thefuture, they may be on to something.


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