Live Review: LIAM GRIFFIN @ The Troubadour 12 July 2009

Review by Bec

Liam Griffin   Sunday night at The Troubadour is a casual affair. “When is it supposed to start?” asks the merch girl.

“About seven?” headliner, Liam Griffin suggests; seems uncertain.

It feels like solo artists, Liam Griffin, Mardi Lumsden and (very late ring-in), Cameron Elliott, have put on a party and are waiting nervously for friends to show. Sure, they’re not huge acts but they’re great local talent and deserve a good turnout.

It’s 7.08 and a few stragglers arrive and tuck themselves away in a corner. Worry seems to cross their faces when they see the empty venue. “Should we have come tonight?” seems to be what they’re thinking.

7.17: still not much of a crowd and no indication anyone will start playing soon. Lyrics, “all hands lost on that ship of fools”, playing through the overhead speakers, humour the empty room; then Bob Seger’s “Still the same” plays; seems ironic since nothing has changed.

A girl in a sundress starts blowing bubbles. She seems incongruous. The bubbles float and burst in the void.

7.28: the crowd numbers begin to swell. People move to the front. Just like the artists, they are fashionably late. Most people know each other and the artists, and this seems to cheer up the room. Makes it feel full. People move cube seats from the edge into the near middle of the room, like they’re in their own living room, and others follow suit. Some sit on the carpet. Within a short time, the Troubadour crowd has thickened.

7.31: first support act, unrecorded artist, Cameron Elliott starts to play and he’s very good. Great voice. Plays acoustic guitar. He tells the audience he’s only had 40 minutes to rehearse (the other artist pulled out). Elliott’s set is a mixture of his own songs and covers, some old, some contemporary. He’s humble and self-effacing and the audience really like him.

He asks, “Should I play a Scottish folk song or Moon River?”

“Do both!” a girl from the audience calls.

So Elliott does. His Moon River is neo-Jazz Age (imagine a remake of Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Anne Hathaway as Holly Golightly and diCaprio as Paul Varjak…) – contemporary and engaging.

“He’s good,” a punter nearby turns to say to her friends and they nod.

Mardi Lumdsen, who normally plays with group, Rising Seas, is a sanguine and superb songbird. Her voice has a delightful, whimsical lilt, as do her lyrics, which are about intimate, urbane experiences of late twenty-somethings, like trying to be noticed by someone you admire by catching their bus, and finding love through the classifieds: “WVTM: with view to marriage.” The audience laughs. Her songs would complement, as a soundtrack, any Nick Earls or Rebecca Sparrow books (or cloud gazing from a hilltop picnic on a sunny Sunday afternoon).

Local singer-songwriter, Liam Griffin seems the most confident or the most accomplished of the three. His songs have musical fullness and movement; they are moody and emotionally sombre pop pieces with a sound heart. His vocal dexterity varies from silken crooning to lengthy falsetto to sans-lyrics bittersweet emotional echoes.

Griffin’s music likes to take you by the hand. It’s like trusting your darkest secrets to a stranger.

He plays acoustic guitar (but by using the volume and delay pedals it sounds more like an electric) and half-way through his set, he picks up the electric guitar to play the remainder of his songs. The electric sound adds to the emotional depth he wants you to travel.

Highlights include third song, Lost in a Rose Garden, possibly the best from his first EP, Pictures: a pretty, yet soulfully sad song. Melancholy and music seems to suit Griffin. Comparisons have been made to Jeff Buckley; but Griffin’s not as dangerous; he always remains on the light side of sane. Until you fall, Griffin’s single release on his MySpace, is another crowd favourite and he seems to enjoy playing it. It’s more commercially appropriate and perhaps not as adventurous.

Griffin’s final track, Adore, is well…stunning.

“I’m trying to get into more instrumental music,” he tells the audience.

Adore is long and moves along different musical pathways before segueing into a guitar thrasher crescendo. Hardly predictable. You can tell the audience is affected – mesmerised even. Punters tell him after that it took them on a musical journey and compare it to Mogwai, Sigur Ros and Explosions in the Sky.

This tour is to raise money for the release of Liam Griffin’s next album (in the demo phase). Email at for more.

Set list for Liam Griffin

Set List:
The Shutters
I started saying it too
Lost in a rose garden
The A.M. Blues
The Blowers Daughter
Until you fall
I want you
Starry Night
A distant memory