You can usually tell the kind of performance Sydney's Angus and Julia Stone are going to put on by what they open with. Starting with one of their jauntier numbers means the show will be somewhat upbeat, something slower will lead to a more relaxed vibe. So, the fact that they began with Santa Monica Dream suggested that the sold-out Brighton crowd could expect the latter.
It would soon transpire that one half of the beloved siblings was taking their foot off the gas through necessity. Scruffily handsome Angus, it turns out, had lost his voice earlier in the day and, while his consequently husky tones had all of the laydeez in the room swooning even more than usual, he was clearly struggling. Therefore, this show was all about Julia. Taking on the lion's share of vocal duties in a set that was necessarily heavy with her own compositions, she performed a version of Angus' Just a Boy and assisted him as he battled to deliver Yellow Brick Road. Therefore, the pleasing juxtaposition that the two contrasting songwriters usually offer - Angus' cruisy ditties, the darker tone of Julia's subject-matter - was replaced by the ramshackle charm of an ad-libbed, off the cuff set.
The attentive audience lapped it up. As seems to be the norm nowadays, there was a marriage proposal from the crowd, this time for Julia, which she laughed off by suggesting that the suitor should ask her again later after he had listened to a few of the melancholy songs she was about to perform. The singer - diminutive and pretty - floated about the stage as she alternated between piano and guitar, while the four-piece was joined by a modest string section. Julia also played harmonica and trumpet and, when her hands were occupied with her guitar, Angus took over trumpet duties. "You have to take into consideration," Julia instructed the audience as her younger brother prepared to parp away, "That Angus can't play the trumpet." Cue much laughter. In truth though, his turn on brass suggested that he'd had more than a few practices.
After a couple of covers, an atmospheric final song was the set's highlight and showcased how Julia can take the bitterness and pain of love and turn it into something beautiful. While this wasn't the perfect show - it was never going to be with Angus' lost voice - the honesty and charm that the delightful Australians exuded was more than enough to warm the hearts of everyone in attendance as the cold bit at their fingers, toes and noses when they made their way home in the snowy English winter.