October 14th, 2011

Loopster Live: Liam Finn at Warehouse Live

After seeing the set times for Thursday night’s show, it was obvious trouble was afoot. Doors opened at 6:00. Marques Toliver was to take the stage at 7:00PM and Liam Finn at 8:00PM. My hope was that both Toliver and Finn had inspired a few hundred rabid fans to fill Warehouse Live’s studio. Far-fetched, I know.

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About 25 people (on a generous count) lined the perimeter of the venue when I walked in. Marques Toliver had already taken the stage. Just a man and his violin. He was in good humor addressing the lack of ticket-buyers. I can imagine it a hard task to go on tour hoping for the best and only seeing a few dozen out in front of you.

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Vocally, Toliver struck me as sounding like John Legend but on violin. Recording countless loops and playing lead over them, he even managed to provide his own percussion. A true one-man band. At one point he grabs an autoharp and sat down in front of the bass drum. “So what have we learned?” he asked rhetorically. “He plays the violin. His name is pronounced ‘Mar-Keys.’ And now he’s picked up an autoharp.”

By the time Liam Finn was supposed to start, the crowd had boomed — relatively. Double, maybe even triple the people, had filled in and began to crowd the stage. Finn took the stage a frantic whirl in a solo drum number that lead into the title track of his first album “I’ll Be Lightning.”

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The Kiwi played through an even mix of old and new material as he switched between drums, guitar and his special “big, sexy, white guitar.” To be fair, anything was big when put up against the slight-framed Flinn whose gruff beard and snarl of hair compensate for the rest of him. The quote of the night, and all in good fun of course, came from Alexander who remarked, “They’re taking this Hobbit shit way too seriously in New Zealand.”

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Liam also played to the crowds strengths by making fun of it’s weaknesses. “This is our first time in Houston. Thanks for coming,” he says. The crowd laughs a bit awkwardly. “Well, when the demand is there…” The awkwardness left as the crowd broke up in laughter. The elephant in the empty room finally addressed. Though, the lack of people allowed a fan to make easy work of ordering shots for Finn and the rest of his band and managed to get a shout out from the man on the mic.

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The crowd size never mattered to the New Zealand crew on stage. Especially Finn, whose energy never dissipated over the course of the show. It was obvious that it didn’t matter if there were 100 or 1,000 eyes on him, the singer was going to use up everything he had in the tank. As the show wound down to its finale, he announced “I’m going to give this next song all that I have, and if there’s more left we’ll play another.” He then launched into “Lead Balloon” with its climax of screamed “yeahyeahyeahyeahyeahyeah”s.

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“Well, that was amazing for our first time. Hope it was as good for you as it was for us,” Finn told the crowd right before the two-song closer/encore. “We’ll come back next time, because, fuck, why wouldn’t we.” A surprising statement that Alexander happened to hear oppositely. I prefer to think that the fans that showed up last night were enough to win the Kiwis over, but you never know. With that, we got the encore minus the fake leaving-the-stage-because-we’re-coming-back part.

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Even if this is the only time that we see Liam Finn in Houston, he left the audience with one last thrill jumping off the stage. Hopefully you got close to the man if you were there, because this might have been your only shot. Well, here’s one last shot for good luck.

Stoney McDougal’s Take:
He’s good on his own, but it’s a shame that Liam and Noel don’t get along anymore.

Set List:
I’ll Be Lightning
Better to Be
Cold Feet
Struggle
Real Late
Energy Spent
Don’t Even Know Its Name
Plane Crash
Roll of the Eye
Second Chance
Lead Balloon
Jump (encore)
Gather to the Chapel (encore)

— Paul

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