Live Review: Nick Murphy debuts his sonic evolution at the Sydney Opera House

The debut of Nick Murphy’s Missing Link at the Opera House was not so much a concert as it was an odyssey – a journey through the life and death of Chet Faker, and his rebirth as Nick Murphy. Much has already been said about the change in Murphy’s moniker, but from the opening moments of his show, he shattered any doubts that people expressed about his evolving style, entering to a brilliant sonic boom of noise. From there, Murphy launched directly into his Faker catalogue, lulling the audience into a sense of familiarity.

With that, he pulled the rug out, launching directly into hits from his recent EP, Missing Link, representing a shift from the indie rock strains of his past towards his electrosoul future. Despite abandoning the Chet Faker moniker, Murphy still performed several of his greatest hits. The beats of Missing Link’s “Bye” joined Thinking In Textures hit, “Talk is Cheap”, blended together by Murphy’s seamless and soaring vocals. The shift in tone was barely noticeable, held together by an enigmatic and soulful performance. Those decrying his shift into more ‘mainstream’ tracks are missing out on what is a move towards more a more emotive and vulnerable Murphy, showcased through the raw emotion in his tracks.

Supported by an absolutely stellar lightshow, Murphy’s performance was, in a word, otherworldly. A variety of strobes, spotlights and overhead lasers were used to create a unique vibe for the Opera House’s concert hall, and a plethora of visual delights to behold. Given that the show took place as part of Sydney’s Vivid Festival, the brilliant and well-timed lighting was most appropriate, and aided the moody atmosphere of the performance greatly. This was in spite of a rough crowd that in some cases threatened to derail Murphy’s performance, particularly in the softer, closing moments.

To say that Murphy has the voice of a modern day siren might seem an overstatement, but the raw power and ease with which Murphy pulled off his performance was a sight to behold. Throughout the show, Murphy moved across the stage, oozing a charisma that can’t be taught, and pulling off even his toughest songs with a casual ease and a deliberate confidence. What surprised me most about the performance was how well his vocals translated onto the live stage. The acoustics of the Opera House aided his performance greatly, but in many cases, his voice, unbridled as it was by the restrains of a recording, soared in the space we occupied. Artists that better the vocal performances of their albums in live arenas are few and far between, but I can say with absolute certainty that Murphy is one of them.

The balance struck between the new and old of Murphy’s catalogue worked well, particularly when he brought out DJ and collaborator, Marcus Marr, to perform songs from their 2015 EP, Work. Despite a fairly lacklustre crowd, their performance of “The Trouble With Us” nearly forced people to their feet with the sheer enthusiasm and power with which it was performed. Later track, “Killing Jar” slowed down the mood, with Murphy and Marr powering through the moody and atmospheric track.

The show’s most emotional moments were underscored by Murphy’s raw voice, fuelled by a vulnerability and expressiveness that few can pull off. Shifting from the loud, pop beats of his collaborative efforts with Marcus Marr to performing alone at a grand piano, Murphy took the audience with him on his emotional odyssey. The closing moments of the show were the most bittersweet, ending on recent hit, “Stop Me (Stop You)”, with the spotlight fading on Murphy’s lone figure, poised as he was over a piano. It was the perfect way to end what was a spectacular night, with drama, emotion, and a great deal of panache.

Some may have preferred a concentration on Faker’s greatest hits, however, that wasn’t the purpose of this show. While satisfying fans of his original work with a range of his past hits, the focus was largely on Missing Link, and Murphy’s future as his own man. Having shedding the Chet Faker persona and been born anew, Murphy’s show made clear how his music has evolved and grown over the years. Where Murphy goes from here is an exciting path to ponder. In his own words, you can’t stop him. He’s made it this far.

Nick Murphy plays the Sydney Opera House again Friday, 2nd June and Saturday, 3rd June. Vivid continues through until the 17th of June. For more details on the festival head to vividsydney.com.

The reviewer attended the performance at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live on 1st June.

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