Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., March 21, 2008
Liam FinnThe Ale House, Thursday, March 13
Young Liam Finn's debut, I'll Be Lightning (Yep Roc), is one of the best discs of the still-new year. That combined with the word that his shows are a virtual one-man band led to high expectations for this appearance. Unfortunately, it was a buildup to a letdown. Finn's songs remain lyrically interesting, yet the way he presented them came off as a disjointed mess. Accompanied by E.J. Barnes on light percussion and backing vocals, Finn sang sweetly when strumming his electric guitar, bringing his Beatles-esque visions to life. At a variety of points, however, the New Zealand native triggered a guitar loop then jumped behind a drum kit to play along. After a while, it felt like a gimmick, his bashing lending little but crashing noise and obliterating any of the subtle dynamics he engaged at the tune's start. This held especially true on Lightning's title cut, when the song's inviting drone turned into a senseless freak-out. Then, some of the melody was lost in the cramped Ale House basement atmosphere on "Lead Balloon," whose bright pop is an album highlight. Finn's obviously a talented songwriter and musician, and maybe some of the technical difficulties at the club, like the stage lights going out just as he was to begin, distracted him. Then again, he just might consider hiring a band.