Angus Stone - Live At Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

So much more than simple folk

Never in this century have so many brogued young beauties gathered to hear one man sing. Indeed, Stone himself has left his clean-shaven, baby-faced looks behind him, and appears to have morphed into some kind of gorgeous Simon Neil figure.

Folk is no more the music of the underdog – but we’re not talking some kind of sell-out makeover here. For the best part of a decade, folk has undergone a kind of organic development that has pulled the genre into the present, injecting it with the elixir of youth and making it relevant to today, and Stone has played a part in that.

At this gig, no normal-sized person has a hope in hell of seeing more than the occasional hint of a cloth hat. The venue is fit to burst and as the band of five (we had a tall bloke check) take the stage, a sea of camera phones emerges and it’s actually kind of beautiful. Plus, we can watch the gig through the screens.

Thankfully, in spite of the twenty-something Aussie’s hunky ruggedness, for the most part, the crowd seem more entranced by his gentle, drawling voice and the noise his band makes. There’s so much more to this music than simple folk: at times, it’s traditional with placid, twangy guitar and harmonica, merging into Ryan Adams’ county territory; at others it’s unpredictable and poignant, introducing jazz and blues chords, gentle, scalic piano, Fleet Fox-style harmony and soft brass. There’s electric-period Dylan guitar, whammy bar guitar reminiscent of Steely Dan (don’t sneer, they’re fantastic), and a cello-and-drums blend that screams Pentangle.

Stone has explored every dusty nook of folk, blues, rock, country and beyond, and the result is a fresh and wonderful fusion of sound to suit your brightest and darkest hours. Though the floor is packed, the concert’s atmosphere is contented and relaxed, and with the lighting and the high-arched ceiling, it’s as if we’re watching this gig al fresco on a warm, starry night. There’s only a slight danger of this becoming fan-girl music – Stone’s speaking voice is quiet and the mic doesn't help, and in the breaks, there are spurts of high-pitched braying from the front. But don’t get stuffy – this is the sound of new-generation folk.  

 

Words by Mia Bleach

Photos by Rosie Wadey

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