Live review: Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird, The Lab

Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird are a band in fine form and, having just released a superb new album, Smiles of Earth, the intricacies of their songcraft were well suited to the Lab on Saturday night.

Emerging local act, Divebar Youth provided the support slot. It was one of those situations where the opener was perfectly matched to the headliner. Like CTNBF, their songs cross genres and are built with diverse instrumentation, including judicious use of cello and synth around the guitars and drums. It was a breezy, engaging set that effectively set the tone.

Smiles of Earth was understandably the centrepiece of the CTBNF set, starting with the album opener, ‘Gabriel’s Horn’, before treating us to the best of the new LP. It such a lush recording, but the outfit manages to bring this to life on stage with harmonies, synth and saxophone all contributing to make these songs soar in the live setting.

A mid-set highlight was ‘Every Morning, It Breaks’, a real stunner starting with beautiful harmonies and then really building something special. It’s a song that shows what this act are capable of.

This newer material also sat well alongside the band’s back catalogue, with older tunes such as ‘Best Face to London’ providing other great moments in the show.

The Lab worked wonders for this kind of music – a truly unique venue that creates such an intimate sense of engagement between artist and audience, and enveloping us all in big screen projections. And the mix was just right, with Lachlan Rose’s powerful baritone sitting nicely against the various instruments.

The gig concluded with the lead single from the album, the timely ‘When This is Over’ from 2021, that closes with a rousing backing vocal from Francesca Gonzales (whose key-tar was also the coolest thing of the night).

No need for an encore – we were all smiles.

Reviewed by Matthew Trainor