Review: Stu Larsen and Natsuki Kurai at The Brook, Southampton


Did I enjoy it? Yes, it was awesome! It was definitely value for money, and an evening well spent. Totally waiting for more!

  • 8.0

This gig sure was perfect for a mid-October autumn evening! And I sure am glad that Stu Larsen and Natsuki Kurai stopped by at The Brook as part of their worldwide tour, yet again! The creative duo, gathering earnest fans as they perform across Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the UK, gave a stellar performance.

The fairy-lit setting of The Brook struck me as a great venue for the gig, since it seemed to be playing up the acoustics. The crowd was encouraging, right from the beginning and all the way to the end.

Before the entry of the lead performers of the day, the audience saw Kelvin Jones and Ben Dlugokecki with their solo opening performances. A humorous Jones performed his viral ‘Call You Home’, ‘New York City’ and ‘I Need A Dollar’, making the crowd sing along to his commendable vocals. His onstage persona came across as lively and animated. Dlugokecki, on the other hand, displayed his more sentimental side through his tracks ‘Too Many Borders’, ‘Lifeboat’ and ‘Putting The Tracks in Front of the Train’ in his usual laid back, down to earth style and clean, yet catchy singing.

By the time the lead performers of the evening appeared, the audience had settled in to a nostalgic, serene mood. The Australian singer-songwriter and the Japanese harmonica player displayed remarkable camaraderie with each other – it should be said that their rapport on, and presumably offstage, was a great highlight of their performance. The rich blend of the harmonica and the guitar was something unusual and fulfilling, each smoothly balancing out the sound of the other. There is no doubt that Natsuki is incredibly gifted – playing the harmonica masterfully yet effortlessly. The tracks that stood out were mainly from the albums Vagabond and Resolute. The songs hinged on themes as varied as separated lovers (‘Aeroplanes’ and ‘Ferry to Dublin’), finding new love (‘San Fransisco’), love for the guitar (‘Chicago Song’), and childhood and growing up (‘Going Back to Bowenville’). The lyrics were intimate, each telling its own story, and effortlessly transitioning from one to the other. The breezy and contemplative ‘By The River’ and the dynamic ‘Chicago Song’ stood out for their rich rendering while the harmonica accompaniment for ‘Going Back to Bowenville’ can only be termed as truly visceral. Kurai scored most on his performance of ‘Hajimari’. They had their witty one liners well-conditioned by street performances over the years. The genuine, mutual respect between them came across as engaging, and I definitely could see a lot of heads moving along to the tunes, with eyes glued to the stage.

Watch the video for ‘Going Back To Bowenville’ below, a film by Nagi Kurai, one of Natsuki’s young daughters.


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