Review: Chet Faker @ Volkswagen Arena

(Source: Bantmag)
(Source: Bantmag)

I have a theory about Chet Faker: he is not really a musician but instead a ninja in disguise. And during last Saturday’s concert at the new Volkswagen Arena there were hints that I might be on to something.

First, Chet Faker came out to a darkened stage just in the nick of time. And like a minimalist 21st century ninja, he was wearing a spotless white shirt, black trousers and a Samurai hairstyle. Also the stage was quite stripped down: just a small keyboard and a mixer console, enough weaponry to defeat the audience. Moreover, there was no elaborate lighting system to distract the crowd, music was his method of war.

Chet Faker (born Nicholas James Murphy – his screen name is a clever homage to Chet Baker) started off with some tracks from his impressive first EP, Thinking in Textures, and then he moved onto material from his magnificent debut album Built on Glass. The crowd immediately got into the sexy and smooth vibe that his music projects. The venue was full but not crowded, so you could dance quite freely and enjoy his beats comfortably.

His moves on the stage are what clearly gave him away as a musical ninja: bent down close to the mixer — his lethal weapon — his hands were up in the air as if he was throwing ninja stars, but instead he was throwing ninja beats and cascading keyboard riffs.

About half an hour in, the Aussie ninja said that this was the part of the show where he likes to improvise and make up a song. So for a good long while he gifted the audience with live loopings and loungey keyboards. It was pretty impressive, and I certainly appreciated seeing a musician actually being brave enough to improvise — Faker was willing to screw up live in order to give the audience something new and out of the ordinary.

For the next set, a guitarist and drummer joined him on stage and accompanied him for almost the rest of the show. Ninjas usually work alone, but in this case the supporting cast helped elevate the music. A new energy entered the arena, as the crowd got into the more danceable tracks. And as the concert warmed up, light projections kept the mood high throughout the gig.

The suave ninja-slash-singer showed also his stunning vocal skills in some solo songs, proving that he is not only a great electronica musician but also has a smooth-as-silk voice and is an inspired performer.

At some point he turned to the crowd to thank them as an independent artist. He said that he didn’t have to sign some rubbish contract with a record label, and that he could produce what he wanted thanks to fans buying tickets for his concerts. He also added that it was his first time for playing in an arena since the gig was moved from Babylon, which fits 500 people, to the Volkswagen Arena, which has a capacity of 6000 people, thanks to the high demand. It’s clear that Istanbul loves this musical ninja, and I think it’s safe to say that we can expect more from Faker in Istanbul.

In more than one song he requested the crowd to sing along, and everyone in the audience complied with surprising accuracy. One of the most beautiful moments was when people used their phone’s flashlights — no more lighters, this is 2014 — to create a wave of lights that followed the soulful harmony of “To Me”.

Chet Faker left the stage thanking us once more for being such a wonderful crowd and sounding quite sincere. When he came back, the last song of the encore was the track that everyone was waiting from his last album: a mellow cover of “Talk is Cheap”, performed under a solitary light bulb hanging from the roof.

The only inconveniences of the concert were a few first world problems: the lockers were not available due to ‘technical problems’ and some people insisted on smoke at the standing area. But the nice acoustics of the venue and the free service back to Taksim after the concert more than made up for it.

More importantly, with that last seductively silky tune, the sophisticated musical ninja was able to accomplish his mission of pleasing the audience.

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Santi is an architect passionate about travelling and writing about the hidden corners and the ordinary beauty of cities. He left his home in Barcelona and moved to Istanbul following the blend of architecture and energy, new challenges for his insatiable curiosity and love. He now thoroughly enjoys writing for Time Out Istanbul and Yabangee.

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