On Sunday evening I meandered along Bristol’s harbourside – by now shrouded in dark and cold – and headed over to the venue-on-a-boat that is Thekla, to watch Julia Stone. The Australian singer had come to our little city in the South West on her international tour. And no amount of fragile beauty and striking timbres on her two solo albums – The Memory Machine (2011) and By The Horns (2012) – prepared me for what she showed us in tonight’s live setting.
Incredible. Her voice is simply incredible. It has a real strength that recordings do not do justice to. But, at the same time, it is so delicate and distinctive that you fear it will break, were it not for the conviction of her lyrics and performance style. Unlike many artists, she has the power to open with a very still and reflective song; The Shit That They’re Feeding You is a commentary on the all-too-common discrepancies between what a lover says, and a lover does.
Popular numbers were And The Boys and For You, both tracks she created with her brother, Angus. And her cover of You’re The One That I Want – which appears on an advert for Sky TV – was well received. The entire set was perfectly balanced and reflective of a girl who really has been there; who is unafraid to tell us that her heart has been stomped on. And to counter any tragedy was her sharp wit. Julia Stone is irresistibly funny. She charmed us into laughter when she described being rejected (the subject of Here For The night) and we fell in love when she was able to end a rant against an unfaithful ex (the stunning By The Horns) with a brief ‘What a w***a’.
It was appropriate that Stone was relaxing with a post-gig cigarette as she waved us off the boat. I left with my head full of tales of love that I can relate to, and with a feeling of having seen true magic between a group of brilliant and very clever musicians. And I feel lucky that she came to a small boat in Bristol, of all places.
Rosie Pentreath is a writer, performer, composer and artist, working and freelancing for BBC Music Magazine and Homes and Antiques Magazine, living between Bristol and London.