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Live Music Review: Boy & Bear at Rescue Rooms

29 February 20 words: Laura Phillips

Award-winning Sydney folk-rockers Boy & Bear played their debut Nottingham show in a triumphant return to the international music scene…

Photo: Daniel Boud

Boy & Bear’s return marks the end of a four-year hiatus due to lead singer Dave Hosking’s illness. Spending time during 2019 in Nashville recording their first album since 2015, Suck on Light, and slowly resuming their status on the live touring circuit, the band earmarked 2020 as the year to take their newest release on tour internationally to a splattering of sold-out shows.

Support comes from the perfectly fitting Irish singer-songwriter Ciaran Lavery, whose brand of indie-folk music is akin to that of other early 2010s artists including James Vincent McMorrow and Matthew and the Atlas. Lavery, accompanied by fellow musician Danny Ball, incorporates typical lo-fi acoustic guitar melodies with keys, a drum machine and honest, down-to-earth lyrics that romanticise everyday encounters.

Cutting his teeth in Belfast-based alt-country band Captain Kennedy, Lavery began his solo career in a distinctively folk style, however, almost a decade on a range of pop influences spanning a variety of eras have been intertwined with his roots to produce a diverse and modern sound.

Lavery kicks off his performance demoing brand new material Count to Ten, before breaking into classic track Okkervil River, following this pattern of new and old work throughout his stripped back set before bringing it to a close with an energetic performance of yet-to-be-released Bella Union.

Crowd anticipation grows as Boy & Bear enter the stage to epic rock anthem Jumpin’ Jack Flash before launching straight into their set with three songs that reminisce work from the early years of their career; Old Town Blues, Milk and Sticks’ and Three Headed Woman. This tour is not simply about debuting  Suck on Light live, but also recollecting the band’s previous successes, particularly from Moonfire and Harlequin Dream as the five piece return to evoke nostalgic memories in crowds of excited fans. Hosking takes this opportunity to greet the audience and humbly expresses how thankful the band are to be back playing live.

Despite the band’s period of time off and guitarist Killian Gavin being replaced at short notice due to family troubles, Boy & Bear seamlessly nail their setlist with precision and synergy. Breaking into the deeply ruminating Work of Art, the band continue to interweave classic crowd favourites Big Man and Breakdown Slow with their newer work, which boasts 70s inspired pop-folk vibes, combining Hosking’s signature glorious vocals with bass lines full of attitude along with cinematic melodies that resonate throughout the venue.

Although the band have updated their sonics, moving away from their roots as an indie-folk band, they still manipulate layers of sound to delicately build atmospheric elements to a dramatic peak in sonorous epic Hold Your Nerve, before bringing the show to a close with energetic track Walk the Wire, eliciting a roaring reception. Boy & Bear treat us to two more throwbacks in their encore; Limit of Love and Southern Sun.

Boy & Bear played Rescue Rooms on Saturday 22 February 2020.

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