Another Sunday, another night at a concert. A strange phenomenon this year keeps dragging me out on a Sunday to see bands play at reasonable hours. Up tonight: folk rock.
Right before 9 PM, Liam Finn took the stage. This is the second time i have seen Mr. Finn the Younger, the last time being when he opened for his dad's band (Crowded House) at The Tabernacle last summer. That time i found him to be interesting, but gimmicky. He played all of the instruments, using a lot of looping so that he could switch between guitar and drums.
Liam Finn, the bearded vocalist.
Tonight he was accompanied by a lady introduced as EJ. EJ sang backup and occasionally added percussion. Her presence was enough to help flesh out the Liam Finn sound. Tonight, there was less of the obsessive looping, and more harmonizing. The end effect was to make him seem more folkish that he did the last time.
Liam Finn and EJ.
One song in particular stood out to me. Liam played guitar and sang, while EJ harmonized and hammered a dulcimer. Instead of sounding like Appalachian Folk Music (a genre i have grown weary of lately), the song came across like something from The Beatles after they discovered LSD. It had that slightly psychedelic feel to what was otherwise a catchy pop tune. Very well done.
One interesting thing to note is that Mr. Finn the Younger has fans. There were a lot of people in the crowd cheering the start of songs (as if they knew what tune it was), singing along, and cheering loudly. I have to admit, he is a personable performer, a real natural on the stage, cracking jokes and chatting good-naturedly. I wonder if such stage presence in hereditary (he is of the New Zealand Finn clan, after all) or is the result of growing up with a father and uncle who were successful pop stars? This is one for the nature vs. nurture researchers out there to examine in detail. I am very curious.
Anyway, tonight i found that i enjoyed Liam Finn's set a lot more than the last time i saw him. On stage at The EARL, with an accompanist/backup singer, his music was fun and pleasant pop. He has a really wonderful voice (again -- nature or nurture?), and i have to admit that he is a really good drummer.
Liam Finn on the drums.
I am genuinely curious to see what type of= performer Liam Finn will develop into. I wonder what his album sounds like? At any rate, based on this performance, i would definitely go and see him again.
Liam and EJ played for about 45 minutes, and then we stood around for about 20 minutes while Laura Veirs got ready. There really was no reason for this, as she played solo with just her guitar and an amp. There was no reason it took so long to change sets, so i am going to chock this up to some misguided attempt to build anticipation in the small crowd.
Laura Veirs played alone tonight, which i have to admit was slightly disappointing. I have heard her solo stuff, and her work with backing band The Saltbreakers, and i prefer her music fleshed out with rhythms and additional guitar. By herself, she is just another folk singer, neither better nor worse than the crowd of them out there. With her band she is a quirky pop artist, and i think that suits her better.
Laura Viers, in a serious moment.
Laura Veirs sings songs that are full of impressionistic lyrics. That is to say, through seemingly random and disjointed phrases she paints pictures of scenes. Listen to any one verse of a Laura Veirs song and it's nonsensical, but taken as a whole i get vivid mental images of what she is describing, mostly nautical things (i wonder if she is actually a sailor?). During the first three or so songs, this imagery seemed forced in a way that i never gathered from her records, but as the show progressed it seemed to flow more smoothly. It seems as if her pacing was off (playing without a drummer when you are used to one will do that to you), and it took her a few tunes to get into the flow. After she hit the groove, i found her music to be rather enjoyable. I still would have liked to see her with a band, but it was not bad.
She ended her set with a lovely version of Riptide, which was the song i really liked on her 2004 EP of the same name. This one came across very well, perhaps because i was more familiar with it than the other tunes she played. She left the stage briefly, and then came back with Liam Finn and EJ in tow. EJ stood at her mic and Liam stood at the drum kit, and they tore into Galaxies, the rocker off of her 2005 LP Year of Meteors. With Liam beating the crap out of a drum and EJ harmonizing with Laura, this song was really glorious.
Galaxies, pour down my cheeks / Galaxies ... they flood the street.
It was a good end to an enjoyable low key sort of evening. I enjoyed seeing Ms. Veirs play on her own, but now i really want to see her with The Saltbreakers. Maybe next time.