Boy & Bear – Auckland Town Hall: May 10, 2024 (Concert Review)

Less than a year after their last Auckland show, Boy & Bear return with their Harlequin Dream 10 Year Celebration Tour.

The Aussie quintet last performed at The Powerstation last June. With no new material released since then, the band has chosen to celebrate the album that put them on the map, 2013’s Harlequin Dream, a record that, as main vocalist David Hosking mentioned, kept their dream alive, after the very expensive failure of their Nashville-recorded debut.

Mountain Boy

Mountain BoyUp first tonight, and playing to a near-empty hall  is Mountain Boy, aka Aaron Clarke. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and songs from his debut album, The Days, Mountain Boy impressed those of us who got there early, playing 6 original tunes that conjured memories of 70s singer-songwriters like Dan Fogelberg and Kenny Rankin. The Boy & Bear folks were also impressed with the Huntley-based troubadour, who they called “freakin’ incredible” during their set.

Sarah Blasko

Sarah BlaskoWe haven’t heard much from Sarah Blasko lately. The Australian singer-songwriter hasn’t released a new album since 2018, but she is here tonight because she is “friends with these guys”.

Sarah, dressed in black, plays an electric piano and performs 6 songs over thirty minutes. Her voice is strong and the first two song may be new and unreleased, so perhaps a new album is on the horizon.  Blasko reached back to her 2004 debut album for Always Worth It and showed off her impressive vocal pipes on the swooping All I Want. The set concluded with Goodbye, perhaps another new song to look forward to.

Boy & Bear

The Sydney band is no stranger to Kiwi audiences…I think I’ve seen them at least three times prior to this, the most recent being just last June.

Fortunately by the time they take the stage (9:20pm) the Town Hall is just about full. The crowd is definitely in a mood to have a good time and the propulsive Old Town Blues gets things going perfectly. David Hosking is in fine voice and the band almost played Harlequin Dream from beginning to end, starting with track two and going through the tracklist until they wind up the set with album opener Southern Sun.

Boy & BearBoth the band and the audience are in fine form with plenty of banter going back and forth. One member notes that the shout outs from the crowd are “fairly aggressive”.

Sax player Matt Ottignon is brought out to blow the house down on the song, Harlequin Dream, and he does just that. The sax is featured throughout the set, mostly in a more subdued setting.

Drummer/vocalist Tim Hart also plays banjo, bass player David Symes takes a turn on drums and eventually guitarist Killian Gavin and Tim Hart take on MC roles, introducing songs, goofing with the crowd and telling stories. Keyboard player Jonathan Hart remained stoic behind his keys.

The set finished with Sarah Blasko joining in for Southern Sun…she sang the second verse…and after just over an hour, it was over.

Boy & Bear

But, it was not to be an early night.

Boy & Bear returned to play a 35 minute, 7-song “encore” that felt more like a second set, featuring crowd favourites that were not on the featured album including tunes like Magnus (with mighty Matt back on sax) and Walk The Wire seguing into Feeding Line and raising the temperature in the Town Hall.

Boy & BearWith Tim Hart back on banjo, the band closed out the evening with their version of Crowded House’s Fall At Your Feet, noting they were “in the land of Neil Finn” and throwing in a verse of Neil Young’s Heart Of Gold for good measure.

All of the Neils would be proud and the crowd was thrilled, singing along throughout the 100 minute set(s) and leaving with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chis Zwaagdyk:

Boy & Bear:

Sarah Blasko:

Mountain Boy:

Boy & Bear Setlist:

  1. Old Town Blues
  2. Harlequin Dream
  3. Three Headed Woman
  4. Bridges
  5. A Moment’s Grace
  6. End Of The Line
  7. Back Down The Black
  8. Real Estate
  9. Stranger
  10. Arrow Flight
  11. Southern Sun
  12. State Of Flight
  13. Suck On Light
  14. Magnus
  15. Lordy May
  16. Walk The Wire
  17. Feeding Line
  18. Fall At Your Feet/Heart Of Gold