A softly lit stage with an island of keyboards in a sea of smoke. Fog pulsing, swallowing the room like it was framing a dream. A clean setup. No band. All eyes focused on centre stage and the promise of rising star Nicholas James Murphy, also known as Chet Faker, to appear.
It’s funny, at concerts, how the crowd tends to resemble the artist performing. Beards and the trendy Man Bun were not in short supply on Monday night. Looking around, I could have sworn to have seen Mr. Faker in the crowd on more than one occasion. “Is that… ? Nooo… just another bro getting in touch with his ‘alternative’ side.”
The mist was settling, and the lights turned down to a darker shade of blue. The music stopped, and the crowd whooed with beer glasses raised to the rafters. Chet Faker appeared with his hands pressed together, impressed and humbled at the reception. He basked in the applause momentarily, high-fiving the front row, then dove right into his keyboards, proceeding to adlib beats and loops for a solid twenty minutes to begin his set. He explained that he enjoys starting his sets with improvisation. That way, we as an audience can see how a real musician succeeds or bounces back from a strange chord choice or missed timing. To start a set this way takes balls. High frequency rings and deep bass tones were thrown in while Faker sang through effect-heavy microphones. We were seeing him in his element, jamming alone like he would in his studio. For some, this wasn’t what they came to see. It was obvious by the mixed reaction from the audience after breaks in the music. For me, it displayed his talent as a musician, an artist, and a risk-taker. It was inspiring.
Faker doesn’t carry a rockstar persona when he’s on stage. He’s soft-spoken, yet clear. He knows how to work a crowd without shouting profanities or insulting others. “Everyone, take out your phones,” Faker addressed after his spree of beats had concluded. “This is the time to take photos,” he said while shuffling towards centre stage. He struck a pose while hundreds of screens lit up the room. An outstretched hand paired with a growling grimace. Snap snap snap. The classic twirling, Jagger microphone manoeuvre. Snap snap snap. “Now, anyone caught whipping their phone out, I give you permission to knock it out of their hands.” Phones continued to turn their ugly, shiny heads throughout the rest of the concert albeit at a much lesser rate. None, at least to my knowledge, were smacked to the floor either.
Murphy continued by stating the importance of remaining independent as an artist. He records, mixes, and writes all his own songs in a studio he built and paid for using money he earned. And, out of respect for his humble beginnings, he played the song that propelled him into a music career: a cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”. He shared verses with the well-versed audience. A booming chorus came from the floor as Murphy shoved the mic towards the shouting mass of fans. A seamless segue from old to new, from “No Diggity” into Flume co-produced track “Drop the Game”, which garnered the same amount of feedback. From this point on, the rest of the set crescendoed until the final note of the encore (“Talk is Cheap”).
A mellow start to a mellow finish with grooves and smooth moves in between. Faker’s honey-soaked vocals swooned men and women alike throughout the night. A collective musical hard-on had everyone buzzing as they exited the venue. He displayed his prowess as a musician with his experimental jams and brought us to our knees with his hits. He played the well-known songs but didn’t keep to the album format, which is why you go to the live show, isn’t it? To hear something you can’t find on a record or on YouTube. His move from Fortune Sound Club, where his last two Vancouver shows were hosted, to the Commodore in less than a year is tangible proof that Murphy is on a cosmic rise. Talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. Chet Faker lets his music do the talking.