Review: Nick Murphy at 9:30 Club

For a while now, Chet Faker’s 2014 Built on Glass has been one of the only albums I have downloaded on my phone, which makes it my de facto plane music. I happily rely on those steady beats and cool lyrics to both calm and excite me before touching down in the far-flung destinations  I tend to find myself.

Imagine my surprise when I got to 9:30 club last Sunday expecting those low-key tunes and was treated instead to a bona fide rock show at the hands of Nick Murphy. The Australian singer/songwriter first broke out under the stage name Chet Faker (a play on the jazz artist Chet Baker). Despite his fast popularity, he decided to let go of the stage name in 2016, and began dropping singles under his real name. It was clear Sunday night that he found, or at least reinvigorated, his confidence after shedding the fake name. At times, I got the impression he was playing the show purely for himself, like when he opened with a brand-new song, and refused to give into the crowd’s unrelenting calls for “No Diggity! No Diggity!”

His second track, “Gold” (from the Chet Faker days) seemed to immediately satisfy the rowdy crowd’s desire to scream lyrics and boogie. A back-and-forth dance of temptation and satisfaction between Murphy and the crowd went on throughout the show, as he clung to his old-school mic and crooned sensual lyrics like  “I wanna make you move with confidence/I wanna be with you alone” and “The girl's got rhythm, her legs move with them/Could you listen, they will tell you something very clear.”

He seemed to be in on the joke as he teased the crowd in between songs with “don’t worry, I’m just getting warmed up” and chuckling as emboldened audience members yelled out “panty dropper!!”

The collective energy peaked with the rockier live version of “The Trouble with Us,” as he ran around the stage vibing with members of his four person band and changing instruments feverently. Excluding the couple to my left that was slow dancing off-beat (faced away from the stage), the crowd fed off of Murphy’s energy and jumped around through bangers like “I’m Ready” and “Your Time.” He transitioned seamlessly between the old and the new, the fast and the slow, and left me in a state of awe wondering how an already-great performer can sound that much better in person.

Following a pretty abrupt stage exit, Murphy and his bandmates didn’t make us work too hard for an encore that started energetically and ended with Murphy’s solo version of “Stop Me (Stop You).” After a quick bow and a “see you next time,” he released the crowd all hot and bothered into the cool early fall night, already wanting more.

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All photos by Xavier Dusaq for Capitol Sound DC