GIG REVIEW: Chet Faker - Enmore Theatre Sydney Australia, June 27 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review written by : Meggie Morris

Chet Faker : an effortlessly cool, pitch perfect, grown up version of Noddy.  
(Enmore Theatre Sydney Australia, June 27 2014)

(image source

Bouncing around behind his setup all in black, a woollen beanie perched precariously on his head like some kind of grown up Noddy, Melbourne native Chet Faker captivated his audience from the outset. What struck me most about him wasn’t his ability to ooze a soulful sensuality whilst strangely reminding me of an adult version of the beloved kid’s TV character. It wasn’t his definitive presence in the entire room while occupying such a limited a space on stage. It wasn’t even that he looked so genuinely chuffed that people were there specifically to experience what he had to offer (yes, they really like you). What hit me immediately was the flawless and insanely communicative quality of his voice. Call me pessimistic, but I wasn’t expecting him to be able to replicate the pitch perfect, but emotionally vulnerable tones of his recordings. He didn’t just reproduce them; he created a dialogue with the audience that was even more intimate. His voice was never lost beneath the bells and whistles of electronic music-making, but maintained its sensitivity through fragile drawls and more resonant outbursts.
He also has an incredible intuition for improvisation. Working within a musical world that relies heavily on loops, Chet Faker, aka Nick Murphy, delivered melodic and rhythmic nuances that constantly subverted the audience’s expectations. These variations captured the room’s attention and were exemplified in his opening cover of Burial’s Archangel. Singing over a repeated descending harmonic passage, Faker varied the melody just enough to maintain interest, and to create an almost unbearable emotional tension. He showcased his appreciation of live performance and the risky possibility of ‘f***-ups’ with a five-minute break dedicated solely to improvised composition, straying from the security of pre-recorded sets typical of live EDM performance.
Described by some as underwhelming, and overly simplistic, Chet Faker’s second cover of Jeff Buckley’s I Want Someone Badly was refreshing and one of the highlights of the night for me. The simple instrumental arrangement was definitely a departure from the lush textural layers of his other performances, but directed even more focus onto his stunning vocals. Doing away with the ‘doo-wops’ and full instrumentation characteristic of soul, Faker brought a dimension of pure, blues desperation to the song. 
Chet Faker gave us the heated grooves of I’m Into You, and Terms and Conditions, side by side with the affecting resignation of To Me and unpretentious bitterness of Dead Body. But as expected, everyone lost it when he took us back to the track that put him on the map, No Diggity. Asking the audience politely to put their phones down and experience the performance in real-time, he described music as a two-way street: you have to give something to take something, and how can you give the artist anything when you’re only viewing them through a lens? 
The focus of the whole night was definitely on Chet Faker’s voice. His appreciation for a variety of genres from soul and blues to contemporary RnB, electronica and hip-hop was evident in just the slightest changes in his vocal delivery. No matter what he was performing though, he created an intimate, engaging dialogue immersed in emotional conviction right up until the closing, stripped-back Talk is Cheap. Even without the identifiable cascading saxophone melody, he managed to exude a calm, sexual confidence that had the girls behind me reaching decibels not meant for human ears.