Nick Murphy is emerging as a true chameleon on the modern music scene, one of those so-talented-it’s-unfair musicians who can write, play and sing everything. Having risen to fame under his Chet Faker moniker with his 2014 debut Built on Glass which topped many an end-of-year chart, last year the Australian musician decided to escape any expectations attached to his stage name by re-adopting his birth name and unapologetically sounding like himself at all times. East London’s Troxy had the pleasure of hosting the closing date to his sell-out European tour, promoting the first EP released under his real name.
After brief instrumental intro ‘Bye’ off said EP, Nick and band, supported by an euphoric crowd, burst into soulful electronica cut ‘Gold’, followed immediately by the quirky synths of ‘I’m Ready’. It instantly became clear that, far from losing out from the absence of the intricate production techniques, the live band arrangements of Nick’s songs would give them a wonderfully warm and organic quality.
Sporting a dapper black suit and his signature ginger beard, Nick filled the large hall with his presence, invested in delivering a perfect performance as he embodied each song. He moonwalked with enviable flair through ‘1998’, oozing charisma from the stage under the adoring eyes of the largely female front row. Nick’s multiple instrumental skills were fully on display as he juggled between guitar, a grand piano, synthesizers and a multitude of effects and pedals. Where he really shined, however, was in his vocals, with a truly impressive delivery, not once wandering off-key yet bristling with emotional rawness and honesty. His microphone technique was yet another weapon in his musical arsenal – he decorates the climax of ‘Forget About Me’ with haunting vocals that resemble a wailing guitar, and pushes the microphone away from his face to create an illusion of distance during piano ballad ‘Believe Me’, a new song that is yet to be released.
Throughout it all, Nick is backed by a masterful band of similarly skilful multi-instrumentalists. Like their bandleader, the musicians proved able to play confidently in any genre thrown their way, whether it was the extended electronic jam of ‘Birthday Card’, or a spontaneous piano-drums-saxophone jazz trio improvisation in between songs.
Nick’s rebrand is an embrace of musical eclecticism, and the evening’s setlist certainly supported that, providing a detailed walk through his musical journey so far as he would follow up the electro-gospel chorus of ‘To Me’ with the driving motorik-beats and almost post-punk guitars of afore-mentioned ‘Forget About Me’. Whilst all performed masterfully, the frequent style and mood changes tended to disrupt the flow as the crowd had to switch between dancing along to a lively beat and embracing their partners under the sounds of a soulful ballad.
Nevertheless, the considerable amount of memorable songs he has under his belt guarantee that fan favourites like ‘Cigarettes & Loneliness’ and ‘Talk is Cheap’ will always be received with joy no matter the sequencing. Nick rounded things off with new song ‘Believe Me’ which was a minimalistic piano-sax duet, and a rendition of his most recent single ‘Medication’ which sounds even better arranged for live performance.
Having completed his first European tour as Nick Murphy and discovered that his songs are still loved by the crowd, he is off to continue his pursuit of new sounds with an upcoming record. While not even he knows what exactly it would sound like, I’ve got a pretty good feeling you and I both will find a lot to love there.