Nick Murphy Montreal International Jazz Festival, Montreal QC, July 2
Published Jul 03, 2019As the lights dim and a speaker from the Montreal International Jazz Festival announces the main act of the evening in a language he probably doesn't understand, the artist doesn't need a French translation to recognize his cue. Although he may not hear his name over the screams of thousands that this outdoor free show attracted, Nick Murphy shows no sign of nerves as he lightly jogs on stage seconds after the rest of his band.
Murphy picks up the guitar waiting for him at center stage and straps it over his black suit jacket. He gives his long brown hair one extra slick back and fittingly begins his set with the introduction song of his new album, Run Fast Sleep Naked, "Hear It Now."
Run Fast Sleep Naked may be Nick Murphy's debut, but the man is no stranger to music. Despite the artist opting to change his stage name to his birth name two years ago, Murphy keeps "fka Chet Faker" in his title for those who may not recognize him without his late moniker. (The nickname is an homage to famous jazz musician Chet Baker.)
Murphy nods in approval to the thousands that are gathered before him as he sings "Sunlight." However, it is clear that those in attendance who came to see him perform, and were not just there for the free show, were there to see Chet Faker. This was made clear by the applause that came from "Gold" and "1998," two songs off of Chet Faker's critically acclaimed Built on Glass album.
The Australian musician frequently transitions between instruments on stage. At times, he lets his band take it away during the more pop-oriented, alternative songs. Sometimes he joins them on guitar. Occasionally, he hunches over the keyboard to hit a few notes between verses, his microphone draped over his shoulder. Other times, particularly following "Dangerous" in which he told the crowd "We're gonna chill after this one," Murphy stays at his piano for his more intimate songs.
Murphy is undoubtedly a talented musician and a veteran with stage presence. However, something feels off. The massive stage with multiple musicians, at times, drowns out Murphy's biggest asset — his voice. Many songs go unrecognized, particularly those from his Work EP with English DJ Marcus Marr. The audience, many of whom are hearing a Nick Murphy song for the first time, take away from the energy that should come from a crowd of fans simultaneously belting out the chorus to "1998."
Murphy is meant for the big stage, but a smaller capacity. As he closes out the night with "Sanity," the crowd doesn't ask for an encore, instead quickly dispersing in order to beat the traffic. As the lights dim once more and the stage goes dark, one can't help but wonder how much better Murphy would sound in a small bar full of fans with nothing but a tall beer, one microphone and a grand piano.