Concert Review: Liam Finn and Andrew Austin @ The Horseshoe Tavern

Liam Finn
It’s Monday night at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern – I have been coming here a lot lately and it’s arguably difficult to keep away with the talent that comes through this stage on a regular basis. I walk in a bit early and sit at the bar with my moleskin notebook and start to write. As I’m looking around, I’m curious as to who would be interested in the show that night. Liam Finn is a power rock New Zealander that has been making music since the early 2000’s – I notice an older crowd – and after a few conversations, I realize they are seasoned travellers – in their late 30’s and early 40’s who discovered Liam while they were nomads in the land down under. It is also worthy to mention that he comes to Toronto often enough and they never miss a single show. This crowd is nostalgic for their youthful adventures and have a momentary wanderlust.

Prior to Liam’s set was a strapping young man by the name of Andrew Austin. Andrew walked on stage with a half-empty room and started strumming his acoustic guitar. I have a soft spot for anything acoustic and so I grabbed my notebook and pen and a spot next to the bar and embraced it. He made casual small talk with us, and asked us if we have heard of his hometown of Sarnia, Ontario. I spent my summers in Sarnia visiting my uncle on weekends and I distinctly remember the green fields, blueberry patches, and blue skies. When he began playing, I was drawn to close my eyes because his voice filled the room with warm tonality and breadth. The first song he played was off his full length EP called While It’s Still Light Out. The song was called If This Is Your Love and its sound was like warm honey flooding over the room. It sounded the way the sun hits the buildings at sunset – an orange glow over everything. “If this is your love, then don’t keep it in a bottle, tie it to the tracks and wait for the train/ If this is like love, when it hits it goes flying, exploding in the sky like a spider in the stars” I was compelled to close my eyes and shut them tight enough to drown out the chatty people around me, and I got lost in it. The quality of the songs that followed only increased – he wrote a song about his hometown; and a song about his girlfriends’ parents; and notably, his song Disappear , which is eccentric and rowdy, which he released a music video for last week. Disappear is a song about having a soundtrack to your dreams, but being unable to remember the music, and waking up before it’s over. The music video has a very Torontonian West Side Story kinda feel and I dig it. During his other songs, Beautiful Bones, Cheap Motel and Here Comes The River, I had put my notebook down and wanted to grab a tambourine and sit on the edge of the stage so I could join him. This girl was sold. After the set, I made eye contact and smiled at him briefly in passing and he came back and gave me a copy of his CD, it has been playing on repeat ever since.

Liam Finn embraced the stage shortly after with much anticipation, the excitement was brewing and the crowd was getting rowdy. He, along with his band were energetic and right away he confessed to us all that his mom was there, via Skype, so that she could watch the show from home. We all affectionately shouted hello and cheered; what a novel idea. The sounds of his new album, The Nihilist, are bold and psychedelic. The composition of each song involves several constructed layers of unique sounds, rhythms and melodies – instruments used on stage included the AutoHarp and the Theremin (woah!). The Theremin in particular held my gaze for most of that song because it is not something I see everyday (or ever). I particularly like the way the band reminded me of a crossover between The Beatles and ABBA, although my comparison might be resented by die-hard fans of Liam’s, or anyone that doesn’t love The Beatles or ABBA (they’re out there). The song Modern Neurotic World had these danceably haunting harmonies that were belted by these beautiful girls at his side – one on synth and one on autoharp; that being said, no disrespect to the gentlemen who were rocking the drums and bass – the ladies stole the show.

Near the end of his set, Liam grabbed a lawnchair and placed it in the middle of the crowd and performed a song while we crowded around him – it was definitely quirky – and I commend him for it – I certainly feel like I gained new insight by befriending his fans – and am now a fan myself.

Review by Stefanie Romano | @stefaloves

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