By Josh Herwitt //
It’s amazing how quickly things can change for aspiring artists in today’s music industry.
Just ask Chet Faker.
It was only a little more than three years ago that the relatively unknown singer, songwriter and producer from Melbourne, Australia, struck Internet gold with his cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” propelling him to No. 1 on the Hype Machine charts in a matter of days.
Fast forward to now, and the word has officially gotten out about 24-year-old Nicholas James Murphy, who continues to pack venues across the U.S. following the release of his debut LP Built on Glass (read our review here) in April.
But what is it about Chet Faker that has made him such a must-see act all of a sudden?
To be honest, I’m not quite sure. Because for all the hype Murphy has garnered over the past few months, something felt missing when he took the stage at The Roxy Theatre last week.
Headlining the second of two sold-out nights in LA, Murphy warmed us up with older cuts like “I’m Into You” and “Terms and Conditions” from his 2012 EP Thinking in Textures before eventually digging into Built on Glass. And although it was refreshing to see him create new adaptations of “Blush” and “1998,” the energy never seemed to reach a threshold inside the diminutive Sunset Strip club.
With an arsenal of production equipment sprawled across the table and his Rhodes piano off to his right, Murphy attempted to recreate many of the melodies that won me over less than two months ago when I first sat down to listen to Built on Glass.
Yet, it was not long before I realized that Murphy’s music, as refreshing and soulful as it is, may not be best suited for a live setting after all. There are some artists whose studio work far surpasses their live shows, and while that’s not to say that the disparity for Murphy is totally transparent, it’s certainly noticeable.
For someone whose music is as refreshing as Murphy’s, it’s still hard to enjoy watching a musician turn knobs and press buttons, regardless of his true talents. That’s not to take anything away from Murphy’s vocal capabilities, but it felt slightly ironic for him to candidly share some of his thoughts on the current state of the music industry.
“Lots of people are spending lots of money to see some dude press play and jump around on stage,” he told the crowd midway through his 75-minute set, bridging the gap from one song to the next.
That obviously wasn’t the case at The Roxy, but at the same time, Murphy didn’t appear to be putting on a clinic in musicianship, either. Instead, he would go on to perform “No Diggity” all by himself, dashing my hopes for the guitarist and drummer he had brought on tour to join him for the Grammy-winning tune.
Still, Murphy couldn’t get past the song’s first verse before stopping to tell his fans to put away their camera phones.
“I give you permission to look around you, and if someone next to you has a phone out, to knock it out of their hands,” he said, even if no one actually followed his advice.
It was a strange request from a man whose fans have become so gaga over him lately that one of them even screamed, “I want to lick your beard!”
Thankfully for some of us, there would be no beard licking on this night.
Rather, we were treated to an alternate version of “Drop the Game,” a track Murphy worked on with fellow countryman Flume for their Lockjaw project last year.
But there were also standout tracks from Built on Glass — “Gold” and “Melt” are two that immediately come to mind — that we never got to hear. Murphy at least saved one of his best for last, stripping down his hit single “Talk Is Cheap” to just piano and vocals during his one-song encore.
It was a somewhat anticlimactic ending to a performance that proved just how hard it can be to make it as a solo act — and even more, keep the flame burning bright.
For Chet Faker though, that could be easier said than done.
VIEW PHOTOS FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO SHOW.