When Above & Beyond first announced that they would be relaunching their hallowed Acoustic Tour, I was overcome with joy. As a die-hard Anjunaholic, I knew I had to witness the splendor firsthand — I knew I had to go. And so I did:
There’s something serene and refreshing about the space encapsulating the quaint city of Berkeley: from the native oak trees producing fresh oxygen to the free spirits of its inhabitants, both old-timers and four-year students alike. And what a fitting place to kick-off the tour’s first open space venue than at the legendary Hearst Greek Theatre, which has hosted artists among the likes of Bob Dylan and Pearl Jam. As the staff set-up for the 34-piece orchestra, the instruments come out one by one: the piano, the violins, the cello, the french horn, the drums, the guitars, and more. After a moment of silence and anticipation, Above & Beyond makes their appearance in full, and vocalists Justine Suissa, Zoë Johnston, Cobi and Natalie Holmes follow. Tony’s on guitar, Jono on vibes and Paavo on grand piano. So forms a blend of Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti West and Ian Fleming’s 007.
A circular tapestry is set on the stage, and a transparent singing bowl with a sparse amount of water is placed in the middle. As the orchestra opens with “Hello,” a woman rubs a mallet around the rim of the bowl to create a soothing sound that purifies and resonates the space to bring us peace of mind. Afterwards, Zoë performs an emotional rendition of “We’re All We Need,” followed by Cobi’s powerful cover of “Blue Sky Action.” We wind back to the Anjuna Archives with Justine’s heartful “Miracle,” and take it up a notch with Cobi’s performance of “Sticky Fingers.” Next is Natalie Holmes’ jaw-dropping debut with the wonderful mash-up of “Counting Down the Days” and “Liquid Love.” I must say that I greatly look forward to more collaborations between her and Above & Beyond. Justine and Cobi join together for the timeless “Satellite vs Stealing Time.” Zoë’s soothing “No One On Earth” soon follows to prepare for Cobi’s all-killer performance of the emotive “On My Way To Heaven.”
Something new comes our way with the return of OceanLab through Justine’s dark performance of “Another Chance,” which was first debuted on ABGT 150 at Sydney’s All-Phones Arena. Next comes Cobi’s soft cover of “All Over The World,” which is introduced by Jono as his recently departed sister’s favorite song. Zoë performs the fantastic “Peace of Mind” and Tony links up with Cobi to perform the fittingly dark “Black Room Boy,” which Paavo comments as a “contrast between the light and the darkness, hope and desperation,” a directive of the trio’s music. When the trio signaled that it was time for Cobi to perform the anthem “Thing Called Love,” the crowd made its way to the amphitheater’s pit, which Paavo claimed as an exemplar of “the power love.” Then come Zoë’s pensive “Save Me” and Cobi’s closing with the incredible “Alone Tonight.”
Soon after, the orchestra exits the stage, and the crowd is giving them a standing ovation with loud cheers. Five minutes later, the orchestra re-enters the stage for a much-desired encore performance. Jono jokes that the crowd sounds “like a football stadium back home in England,” while P adds that the concept of acoustic “captures the essence of America.” Justine breaks into OceanLab’s unforgettable “On A Good Day,” while Cobi follows with the epic “Sun & Moon.” Lastly, Zoë closes with the relaxing “Good For Me.”
Conclusively, 16 tracks and an encore of 3 later, Above & Beyond’s Acoustic II show is a performance that I will never forget — as well as a personal favorite. Tony absolutely killed it with both silver tongue and guitar, Natalie Holmes and Cobi’s debut were stellar, Zoë and Justine were delightfully euphonic, and Paavo’s kind words were as touching as always.
Acoustic II comes out tomorrow, on June 3rd. Be sure to pre-order your copy here.
All photo and media materials were provided by MSOPR.