Nick Murphy has taken a considerable amount of time away from the spotlight since releasing music under the Chet Faker banner. His decision to drop such an established name is ambitious, to say the least. With the release of his third album Run Fast Sleep Naked, he has returned. Performing at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney last Tuesday, he has demonstrated that there is more to an artist than their name. While the crowd may have come to hear Chet Faker, they all left with the name Nick Murphy engrained in their memories.
The Enmore Theatre is at its best when the rows of theatre seating are cleared out to create a huge show floor. Packed to the brim, the young audience stood in anticipation. Billed as the Run Fast Sleep Naked tour, the set list was designed to showcase his new material. In pitch-black darkness, the faint silhouettes of the band welcomed Murphy onstage. The powerful opening track of the new album, ‘Hear It Now’, did for the concert what it did for the album. It slowly drew the listener in with the distant instrumentation and Murphy’s soft vocals, before exploding with light, sound and colour. Moving on to the notably more upbeat ‘Yeah I Care’, the crowd began moving.
While this was the tour for his latest album, his transition to 2014’s ‘Gold’ and ‘1998’ was a much needed dose of familiarity for the audience. During these tracks, with dense fog and crimson lights engulfing the band, it was evident that the crowd knew Chet Faker more than Nick Murphy. However, the transition to the eclectic ‘Weak Education’, off 2017’s Missing Link EP, gave not only Murphy but the band an opportunity to start jamming. Contrasting sounds between the band swirled together as Murphy started dancing to the beat on stage. He was wild, matching the energy of the music as band members played strange but funky instrumental sequences.
One of the best features of the concert was how Murphy translated the more digital aspects of his music to the live setting. A clear example was in the transition to ‘Harry Takes Drugs on the Weekend’, in which Murphy waved the microphone to and from his guitar and played with a violin bow to create a pulsing feedback effect. The relatively new track still didn’t land with the unfortunately still crowd. However, as Murphy himself noted when talking to the crowd, their “chill” status meant they were listening intently to the diverse and unique sounds. Fading out into a tense silence, the defibrillating bassline of ‘Trouble With Us’ was a shot of adrenaline for the Sydney audience.
The dancing ensued and the crowd was lost in the music for what was the most fun part of the set. From jumping with the rhythm to rolling on the floor, Murphy was having fun too, extending his energy to the now totally invested audience. To match the highs, Murphy then brought things down low with a decisively less jammy rendition of ‘Birthday Card’. With the wildness of these songs fading, the band disappeared under a thick blanket of fog, becoming formless shadows in the background. Murphy then took to his piano, with a single light fixed on him, to perform a series of slow emotional ballads. These not only highlighted Murphy’s talent as a singer but also his passion as an artist.
Columns of light washed over the crowd during ‘Believe – Me’, before an ominous red light backlit Murphy’s silhouette during the track’s heavily distorted finale. It is a powerful song, but the image of a lone musician standing in the dark as he poured his heart and soul out was nothing short of surreal. When it finished, the crowd took a breath and gave Murphy a huge round of applause, which was indicative of the almost transcendent moment they had witnessed.
Later, a strange moment occurred. After informing the crowd of his guitarist’s birthday, with the crowd singing Happy Birthday, Murphy killed all the momentum he had built up and began playing some jazzy improvisation on his piano. The crowd, confused but curious, collectively leaned in as the lights dimmed. Suddenly these strange notes morphed into the familiar melody of 2014 triplej Hottest 100 winning track, ‘Talk is Cheap’. Suddenly a spotlight shone on the saxophonist, kick starting the track. While everyone sang every word, and the backup harmonies, along with Murphy, there was an even better response to his latest hit ‘Sanity’. ‘Talk is Cheap’ was the crowd’s opportunity to remember how great Chet Faker was, but ‘Sanity’ was a reminder that Nick Murphy is here to stay.
Nick Murphy hasn’t reinvented himself musically, but he has certainly evolved. The more downbeat and emotional tone of Run Fast Sleep Naked could’ve gone one of two ways in a live show. It could’ve either been a series awkward lulls in an otherwise groovy set of older, well-known hits, or an opportunity to provide surreal audio-visual experiences. It is a testimony to Nick Murphy’s evolution as an artist that it was the latter. Check out the full set list below.