Tuesday night the Highline Ballroom in Manhattan lit up with newcomer Cobi, opening for Australian favorite Boy & Bear. Cobi started with exceptional punctuality, coming out solemn and focused. He began slow with an acoustic track to captivate the crowd. Singing about “rolling with the wind,” you could tell Cobi and his band were very much into the music. Even with their slow yet purposeful start, you could tell the song was building, and sure enough Cobi shook us all with his burst of a guitar solo–one that would become the first of many throughout the night.
Cobi moved right on to next his next track with red blaring lights and a sexy undertone. Singing about prying himself open and living a little lie, Cobi explored the range of his vocal chords. It was like a peek into the influences of Brendon Urie and Panic! At The Disco. Cobi also took on a harsher edge, at one point singing in his own kind of rap style.
Cobi was clearly having a good time on stage, between the dramatic guitar solos, the many smiles thrown the crowd’s way, and the infectious way he and his drummer fed off of each other. Each song also had it’s own unique vibe. “Cosmopolitan Man” was one Cobi was obviously proud of, describing it in terms of “leaving your love to find your soul.” This and one other song with a slow, ethereal feel really made Cobi stand out. He has a voice and style the likes of Hozier and Imagine Dragons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he took influence from them.
The crowd started to come alive with “Back to the Earth” (ironically), which gave off yet another different vibe, and easily had us clapping along at the right moments. When Cobi played his single “Don’t You Cry For Me” the crowd was ready and willing to give it their all. As an opener and certainly in his own right, Cobi did a great job owning the stage.
Boy & Bear came out with almost a completely different sound. The crowd had swelled, clearly excited for the Australians, almost as if welcoming back old friends. Boy & Bear are a well-rounded five-piece band with a classic old school feel to them. Thus it was all the more fitting that our playlist in between sets hosted the likes of Paul Simon and Simon and Garfunkel.
Boy & Bear’s use of keys was phenomenal–it brought me back to my days of Alex Marshall and The Cab–and is something I really admire in a live performance. Killian Gavin on guitar stole the show a couple times, but in definite contrast to Cobi’s solos earlier in the night. It was interesting to see such talent in each musician, just displayed differently.
Some of my favorites included “Harlequin Dream” which was pretty low-key for a live show but still really struck me. “Lordy May” was also slow and deep, and latched on to Cobi’s earlier theme of going “back to the earth.” “Ghost 11” also stood out, as well did an oldie–a 2010 track from an early EP called “Rabbit Song”–which had excellent build and use of instrumentals.
Dave Hosking has an unique voice, a little strained, a little froggy (in a good way), that fits with the band in an effortless way, making Boy & Bear quite catchy. So much so that it took me a moment to realize that the crowd was much older for this group, though there was still quite a mix–of male and female, as well. Seeing that made the night that more intriguing, and I was glad to be able to enjoy it with so many other fans.