New Zealand’s Liam Finn earned his Band To Watch stripes on the strength of just one song — the masterful “Second Chance” — and a few views of his instrument-switching live footage. His debut release I’ll Be Lightning will see these shores in early ’08 courtesy of Yep Roc, and it was at that label’s showcase after midnight that we finally got to see his looping popcraft in action. Our attendance was a happy accident, really; we hit Mercury after spending hours at the Knit in hopes to see Jay Reatard — unfortunately Jay was over and out in just 15 minutes. Good thing Mo Pitkins is on the walk home.
I’ll Be… is pretty much all Liam, an album on which the multi-instrumentalist shows estimable drums and guitar chops and a good dose of that songwriting DNA inherited from dad Neil (hey now, hey now…). At Mo, though, Liam had a little help from a lovely lady in red, providing Finn with harmonies and quiet, admiring smiles. LF hopped back and forth between his guitar rig and a drum kit as advertised, tapped pedals to sample loops and to octavize his guitar for bass lines, and sang with a golden voice.
“So, I came to CMJ,” Liam said late into the set in his thick Kiwi accent, “and everybody’s got a beard.” We laughed. It was a deadpan observation that’d make his co-patriots in Flight Of The Conchords proud. “In New Zealand nobody’s got a beard! I’ll have to shave right now.” Either that, Liam, or just move here. We bumped into Yep Roc/Simian exec/former hobbit Elijah Wood at the show — maybe he could put you up? Do it for your beard.