Location: The Five Spot, Atlanta, GA, March 17, 2008
Supporting: The Most Serene Republic and Miracle Fortress
In The Company of: myself
The cozy Five Spot in Atlanta’s Little Five Points was host to the Next Big Thing: Mr. Liam Finn. You may recognize the name because he is the firstborn of Neil Finn (Crowded House, Split Enz). Liam possesses the same excellent knack for songwriting and performing as his father, yet has mastered it at 24 years of age. He is also quite a frenetic performer on stage, a trait obviously passed down from uncle Tim Finn. Rolling Stone Magazine called him one of the ten new artists to watch in 2008. The Finn Dynasty seems to be alive and well.
Finn is on tour supporting his first solo release, I’ll Be Lightning, after splitting with his rock band Betchadupa. He played a six-song set at the Five Spot as the opener for The Most Serene Republic and Miracle Fortress. But tonight, it’s all about Liam.
Roughly 100 tickets were sold in advance, and several more fans arrived at show time. Finn began his 35-minute set with “Better To Be,” a bouncy track that seemed to awaken the crowd. He is as accomplished on the drums as he is on the guitar. And a fierce and exact player he is on both. Accompanied by the golden-voiced EJ Barnes (daughter of Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes), Finn would play several chords of a song, record it to loop, then record a second and sometimes third loop. As these guitar solos were meshed together, he jumped on the drum kit and tore it up. Drumming at the speed of light – and sounding good – is a rare thing. He did the work of three or four musicians and had the sweat to prove it.
Next up was “Energy Spent,” which begins with a lovely acoustic guitar and jumpy drums. Then, after Finn and Barnes downed whiskey shots, he broke in to the “Jameson Jam.” This was apparently an ode to the just-swallowed shot. Finn is adept at this type of spontaneity and it occurred throughout his performance creating quite an excellent mood in the room.
Finn’s musical influences range from the Beatles to Elliott Smith. On the title track to I’ll Be Lightning, the case is made for the Beatles influence, with a combination of layered harmonies and building tempos strangely reminiscent of “A Day In The Life.”
Before the next song, a fan yelled out “Wise Man!” And Finn instantly began playing that very song…possibly the finest song on the album (“He’s a coloring book that’s been all colored in / what once was fun will later on be boring…”). Next up was the first single from I’ll Be Lightning which Finn also performed on Late Night with David Letterman last month, “Second Chance.” This is another selection that uses the guitar loops to set up a very rocking song once Finn jumps on the drums. Many in the crowd knew this song and were singing along.
After thanking Atlanta and more pleas for a whiskey, Finn ended the show with “Lead Balloon,” an all-out jam that was played full-tilt. The crowd got a taste of a creative songsmith who can play from the hip and do it extremely well. Finn must be somewhat familiar with the Little Five Points area. He played drums and guitar while on his father’s solo tour just down the street at the Variety Playhouse back in 1998 when he was only 14. He has definitely become his own person and quite an outstanding musician in his own right.