Liam Finn + Big Scary + Evil J & Saint Cecilia - Oxford Art Factory (26.08.11)

Arriving unfortunately just as Big Scary was finishing their set (who from all sources were fantastic) I was taken back by just how packed the venue was already in anticipation of Liam Finn. With a full band now in tow, I was weary, fearing that with others to fall back on to create sound, Liam Finn would not live up to the intensity and energy that characterised his solo shows. How wrong I was.

Liam Finn came on stage and went straight into a rolling and pounding drum solo that showed off his incredible musicianship. Compared to the much sparser tones found on a number of tracks in I’ll Be Lightning, Liam Finn’s live show had such an enormous depth of sound that ricocheted off the walls of Oxford Art. Kicking things off with the title track from his debut album “I’ll Be Lightning”, the sound was heavier with Finn’s strong vocals taking command.

The changes in pace within and between songs broke up the pace nicely, as did the variety of songs from both albums, choosing not to just focus on latest release FOMO. Despite the band being a new addition to Finn’s shows, they played together seamlessly, never once missing a beat.

“Better To Be” and “Reckless” amped up the already warm audience with delicious guitar hooks, percussion and drums. In softer moments, “Remember When” and “Second Chance” were definitely crowd favourites as the melancholic melodies reverberated throughout the audience who mouthed and sung along with Finn. The dreamy “Neurotic World” left me swaying unconsciously to the wistful sound of Finn’s voice and sparse but atmospheric backing.

Liam Finn’s enthusiasm for his music and his technical skill was truly an amazing sight to be seen. Employed as singer, guitarist and drummer, he bounced from sound to sound, playing unbelievable guitar pieces, only to loop them to take over on a second pair of drums in a raucous state. It was easy to see how originally he performed as a one-man band, with his backing band adding to this sound scape with their atmospheric tones.

From song to song, the warm and friendly Liam Finn shared his musing, creating a closer connection to the audience. The crowd responded well, participating in the songs with singing, jumping and dancing from the floor.

Bringing Big Scary onto the stage, Liam Finn and his band ended the set with “Lead Balloon” in a turbulent communal yelling of “yeah”s, guitars and drums. The song never seemed to end yet at the same time, I didn’t want it to. It wasn’t long until the commotion of the crowd brought Liam Finn back on. Labeling it his “farewell song”, the now sweat-drenched Liam Finn finished off the night with the sweetly soulful “Gather to the Chapel”. I left knowing that I wouldn’t see another show like this for quite some time.