Liam Finn, Big Scary, Evil J & St Cecelia @ ANU Bar, Canberra (25/08/11)

The name Finn carries more than a bit of weight in the Australian music industry. Thus, one could be fooled into thinking that the success of Liam Finn’s accomplished career is less talent, more family connections. Being the son of a member of one of the country’s most beloved bands surely must make things easy, right? Seeing Finn live, however squashes any claims of nepotism. Part rockabilly charm, part soulful crooner, Finn has the art of the perfect gig down to a fine form, which is exactly what fans got on Thursday night.

For the early birds, Sydney duo Evil J & Saint Cecelia were on hand. Comprising of Eliza-Jane Barnes (daughter of Jimmy) and Cecelia Herbert, Evil J’s combination of baroque glamour and whimsical folk stole punters away from the bar and to the stage. It wasn’t long before their captivating tunes, most off the album Strange Beasts had everyone asking who this ethereal duo were.

A short while later yet another duo took to the stage. Hailing from Melbourne, the genre-spanning, multi-instrumental Big Scary played an enigmatic, frantic set that drew on their past EP’s and LP’s, as well as the upcoming album Vacation. Newest single Gladiator proved a crowd-pleaser, leaving no doubts that this two-piece are set for bigger things.

A mercifully short break separated the end of support and Liam Finn’s arrival on stage, giving fans just enough time to grab a drink before reclaiming their spots front and centre. Finn graced the stage to cheering, clapping and catcalls and wasted no time diving straight into his most-loved tunes. Opener I’ll Be Lightning proved to be just the ticket for loyal fans, who didn’t miss a beat as they sang along to every word. Finn stopped to banter with the crowd, making more than a few cracks about the ‘ANUS campus’ and telling us how much he loved Wednesday nights, before being reminded by a member of his band that it was actually Thursday. It may be the beard, or the erratic dancing, but Finn’s presence on stage is explosive, frantically dashing to and ‘fro, picking up instruments and crooning into the mic. As he moved through tunes like Neurotic World, Real Late and Remember When he left no audience member behind, instead giving them no choice but to lose their inhibitions, dance and howl along to every word. A keen observer likened Finn to a a ‘rabbi on speed’, and with his impressive beard and boundless energy, this is a pretty apt description.

The set was supposedly wrapped up with Lead Balloon, but with calls for an encore heard as always, the enamoured crowd were soon moving in unison to Jump Your Bones and This Place Is Killing Me. After this Finn bid us adieu and promptly left the stage, leaving behind a bar filled with people still riding the buzz of an amazing live show.

I’d been told before the gig that Liam Finn ‘goes well with wine’. This much is true, but however relaxing, melodic and folksy his music might be, Finn gave a show that was exactly what a rock n’ roll gig is supposed to look like; loud, dynamic and not for the faint-hearted.

Neil who?