Coming off of an almighty year of touring in 2011, including performances at South By Southwest, Boy & Bear could not have been any more comfortable in front of a sold-out Forum Theatre on Friday.

Despite confessing to being Sydney-siders, Dave Hosking made it clear that the band possessed a special sentiment towards playing in Melbourne, and to a room brimming with fans, the band proceeded to ensure that everyone there knew it.

First support came from fellow Sydney-based Tin Sparrow, who comfortably and capably held the attention of an already filling room; playing songs from their recent EP Fair and Verdent Woods. Next in tow were Brisbane natives The Jungle Giants, who received a steady spattering of applause for their refined and cohesive guitar-driven indie-pop, with bass player Andrew Dooris putting fistfuls of energy into some carefully crafted stage moves in every effort to elevate the already excited crowd.

As the lights dropped for the headliners, illuminated by a glowing, patterned backdrop, they were welcomed to the stage by a rapture of applause before diving headlong into ‘Rabbit Song.’ Then, running straight into ‘Lordy May’ without a moment of pause, Boy & Bear seemed instantly at home on The Forum stage.

“This is the first time we’ve played with a backdrop” announced Kilian Gavin, once the band took a breather.

“What do you reckon?” he asked, indicating towards the neon-lit stage wall to be met by an affirming eruption of approving applause.

As unfortunate as it sounds, the bands definitive cover ‘Fall At Your Feet’ did seem to stand out as a sincere highlight and was received with resounding joy from the assembled fans. A special treat twisted into the folds of the track came in the form of a few softly strummed bars of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’.

Although the crowd were receptive, and the band tight and cohesive, there seemed to be something missing about Boy & Bear that was difficult to place.

The sound was perfect and the songs all played with professional competence, while Hosking connected with the crowd between songs with kind words of thanks and the odd anecdotal explanation; but still the show seemed to rest comfortably on a plateau, neither high nor low, but in a sure state of contentedness.

In terms of faults, this is admittedly minor, however a dynamic and wholeheartedly engaging stage show still seems to have eluded the Sydney based ensemble.

Glimmers of brilliance during ‘Feeding Line’ suggests the greater potential these guys can reach, if only it would show itself. In many respects this could be viewed as nothing detrimental to their success, but rather an indication that the full capabilities of the band have yet to be seen and are just waiting for the opportune moment to reveal themselves.

Until this time, there is no doubt that the folk rock five-piece will continue to play rich and polished live shows, further affirming their position as a compelling and prospective Aussie band.

– Morgan Benson

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