“You’re so wonderfully attentive this evening. It’s nice.” Boy & Bear were mid-set at their Sydney headline show when vocalist Dave Hosking took a moment to express his gratitude towards a crowd that had shown nothing but love all night. Admitting to the audience that despite driving past the venue multiple times recently to see their photo gracing the exterior, he had actually never been inside Hordern Pavilion before, Hosking continued to warmly ramble on as if he was catching up with an old friend.
In an age bombarded with stoic figures shackled behind a laptop or two, indie folk-rock band Boy & Bear’s personal touches – from quirky anecdotes and crowd sing-a-longs to personally thanking support acts Montaigne and Art of Sleeping – proved to be a refreshing change. Despite playing a venue significantly larger than what we’ve seen the five-piece play in the past, a sense of intimacy flowed through. Old Town Blues saw Hosking crooning “because I wanna be an old man too, I wanna be a role model to my kids, I wanna teach them how to love” with a sincerity unlike any other vocalist I’ve seen recently, and the audience could not have been more receptive. Other slow-burning numbers like Bridges and Big Man were met with the same respect – a large crowd of bodies swaying in harmony whilst remaining relatively silent to preserve the organic beauty unfolding onstage.
Set to a technicolour backdrop, the band seamlessly worked their way through a set of highlights from past releases Moonfire and Harlequin Dream, along with their latest album Limit of Love. Boy & Bear’s ability to create a full, radiant sound while remaining gentle is something to be admired, as they performed each song with a humble strength. Fan favourites Rabbit Song, Southern Sun and Feeding Line unsurprisingly led to grooving in the audience, whereas the band’s infamous Like A Version cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black provoked mass sing-alongs.
Nearing the end, the Sydney outfit loosened their previously polished demeanour and tore through Part Time Believer, Harlequin Dream and Walk The Wire in succession, complete with a few shredding guitar solos from Killian Gavin and an additional saxophone appearance. Rousing ‘til the very end, these boys are not just musicians but artists.
Whether it’s their genuine passion for music, ability to keep a large audience quiet and thoroughly engaged for an hour and a half, or knowledge of how to compose and perform ARIA award winning songs, there’s no doubting Boy & Bear’s talent. Sure the swelling folk melodies and soaring harmonies are great but the real standout of the night was the band’s belief in what they were playing. By the end of the night we were all believers too.