Upon the coloured light bulbs and mood lighting, the room filled up with an agenda of groovy beats and neo-soul. Allen Stone was in town, playing at the Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne’s sacred north. It would be his only Australian show before hitting the Byron Bay Blues Festival in early 2019. Not being familiar with soul grabbing, funk-driven and groovy melodies myself, I took the opportunity to expose myself to the sweet sounds of Allen Stone.
The crowd gathered willingly to see the night’s support act, Melbourne’s own Thando. Her charisma and comfort in her style, lucidity and brightness in her voice accompanied by the sub-bass lines hypnotised the crowd to involuntarily bob their heads to the sounds of her songs. Presented with a 4 piece band and some sultry purple mood lighting, her persona on stage was radiating with soul and richness. Swaying side to side with her two backing vocalists she introduced the night with some silky harmonies.
After the up-tempo and funk-driven songs, Thando took the time to indulge the crowd with a more sensitive, melancholy group of tracks. Speaking of her past anxieties and troubled relationships, though only a 30 minute set it a great balance of emotion throughout. Towards the end, she played her latest single “Happy”. With soothing flow to the delivery of her lyrics, she paints the story of seeing her past lover happier without her. The slow synth based melancholy track gripped the crowd tightly, making everyone’s interest in the Allen Stone opener escalate immensely.
She ended her set with a more sexually provoking track, “Naked”. With an alluring call and response with the crowd of the words “I wanna see you naked” the final song really warmed all of us up to see the man himself.
With no further anticipation other than the half-hour interval, Allen Stone embraced the crowd with open arms and walked onto the stage with his 5 piece band. With his signature long hair, beanie and glasses look, the Chewelah, Washington native opened his part of the night with “Fake Future”. Being a newcomer to the Allen Stone scene I was impressed by the free-flowing characteristics of Stone’s vocal delivery and his sophistication as a showman-like musician.
With no chatter between, next he presented his rendition of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”. He gave a neo-soul twist on the indie pop ballad. Surprising the crowd with a Melbourne born track, I’d like to think he was paying tribute to the location of his performance and Melbourne’s rich music scene.
Stone is a statement piece of a performer. Channelling the spirits of James Brown and Marvin Gaye, he really transports you back in time to the golden days of rhythm and blues. His soul bound voice is the main factor that is leading the modern scene of neo-soul and soul music in the world. His stage banter with the audience felt like you were talking to a very wise and old friend. The show felt like a sermon piece, he was preaching all sorts of messages about positivity, unity and love in music.
He took a moment to excuse the band off stage to perform and perform two songs acoustically. “The Bed I Made” was an astonishingly impressive track that caught my ear from the very first running rhythm of the guitar part. It somehow gripped me more than his band pieces, maybe I’m just more inclined to acoustics.
The next solo piece was a song he exclaimed was written for his newly wedded wife called “I’ll Give You Blue”. It was an undiscovered track, not yet recorded but only existed in live form. But nonetheless he still never fails to wild an audience with his sweet and tender soul loving voice. The slow-moving love ballad truly reflected Stone’s warm-hearted soul and personal songwriting ability. The pace of the show picked up with his hit single “Brown Eyed Lover”. With over 2 million streams on Spotify, it didn’t fail to bring the crowd into a dance-like atmosphere.
He then left the stage momentarily, building up to the reveal of his most his most memorable song “Unaware”. As the silence was set on the stage, the crowd was not. There was such a moment of suspense created by Stone his moment back on stage that much more special. Alas, “Unaware” was sung to the crowd and sung back to Stone. The smooth intensity of the track hit hard within me, whilst the studio version is still outstanding seeing it right before my eyes convinced me that Allen Stone will always be the icon for modern age Soul and RnB.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Allen Stone returns to Australia in April for Bluesfest and the just announced shows below. The reviewer attended the performance on 26th September 2018 at the Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne.
Allen Stone 2019 Australian Tour Dates
Saturday April 13 2019 – The Gov, Adelaide
Sunday April 14 2019 – The Corner, Melbourne
Wednesday April 17 2019 – Factory Theatre, Sydney
Thursday April 18 2019 – The Triffid, Brisbane