San Francisco Bathhouse
November 16 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

THE INDIE kids weren’t out for Liam Finn. I’d gotten so used to gigs where carefully coiffed postures, unnoticeable to the visible eye head-nods, and earnest applause were the norm. Instead, the man with a bushranger beard and famous pedigree played to the type of enthusiastic crowd who were there for as much a good time as possible, and it was that brand of crowd who need to go out to more gigs. It was the type of gig where ugly people passionately pashed in front of everyone, alcohol got thrown about with gay abandon, a-rhythmic clapping and wild singing were part of the background noise, and where people like me with my indie posturing felt self-conscious. It was odd, you’d think Liam Finn’s target audience would be the indie crowd, with his gorgeous melodies, self-effacing style and musical experimentation. But then, he does deserve to be listened wider. His 2007 album I’ll Be Lightning is a brilliant release, an album which hasn’t seemed to have got the credit it deserves locally.

This gig also followed the recent announcement that Finn has made Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 10 acts to watch in 2008, no small achievement considering Rolling Stone has the whole jingoistic American thing going on. I’d lost count of how many times I saw Finn’s old band Betchadupa perform – they seemed to support everybody a few years ago. Early on, Finn’s song-writing displayed a solid melodic sense even if Betchadupa could have done a lot more with their sound. With his solo stuff, Finn seems to have incorporated considerably more experimentation, making full use of the loop pedal and instruments like the theremin. The live show has also improved considerably (but then again, he kinda signalled his sound at Camp a Low Hum in February) – even if Saturday night was a little ramshackle in its feel.

However, Finn was having a great time, enjoying the crowd’s support, and bantering happily with the crowd. He flew through his set, and no doubt probably has to put up with odd smart-arse at every NZ show who asks for ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’ or ‘Empty Head’. While his loop-pedal use could have been a bit more tight (his use of layers rambled a bit at times), when it did work, it worked spectacularly (notably in his single ‘Second Chance’, which was frankly, astounding). His drumming was also excellent, with Finn confirming his multi-instrumentalist-status live. Finn’s on his way to becoming a special performer, and at 23, potentially has the world at his feet (touch wood). I went searching for the indie kids afterwards to regain some sense of normalcy for me, but couldn’t find them. I don’t know where they were, but they missed a guy who’s potentially set to be big. It’s deserved too.