Brooklyn-via-Melbourne electronic r&b artist Chet Faker, born Nicholas James Murphy, is just a few feet away from massive stardom. As made evident by his three sold-out shows at Terminal 5 this week, Faker has carved a place for himself alongside James Blake, Flume, and the xx. Faker has been consistently touring the States, Europe, and Australia since releasing his debut album, Built on Glass, in April 2014, and with this excessive road-working comes a tightened and robust performance that weaves effortlessly between his r&b vocals and electronic production.
Opening the show Saturday night was nineteen-year-old XXYYXX, or translated into English: Marcel Everett, who played a cool, simmering DJ set that accompanied patrons’ squeezing to and fro between the concession stands and snagging any open footholds throughout the venue. T5 became noticeably more bloated throughout XXYYXX’s set as Faker fans continued to trickle in, and by the time he took the stage, a sea of shoulders and heads had overtaken the venue’s available standing area.
Initially appearing solo, Faker donned an illuminatingly white T-shit under his crisp navy-blue jacket that hovered in place while remaining buttoned only at the top. He began by slicing and crafting together recorded loops in a swift manor akin to a Benihana chef cooking on an open griddle. The crowd was enthused, and by the time the applause for this intro ended, the members of his backing band emerged and a triangle was formed with Faker at the head.
The setlist focused heavily on Built on Glass cuts, with highlights from his EP Thinking in Textures sprinkled throughout. Midway in, Faker busted out his Flume-collaborated single “Drop the Game”; he’d also reimagine Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” drenching the cover in deep bass vibes, with his delicate vocals doing justice to the classic.
After playing a passionate rendition of “To Me” where Faker sang with eyes closed, the accompanying musicians retreated, leaving him alone with the audience. “I’ve been a professional musician for four years,” he told the crowd. “And the only reason I didn’t have to sell my soul to the devil is because of people like you.” Met with a wave of cheers, Faker thanked the crowd before launching into a track he covered four years ago in his garage. “No Diggity” was the breakout single that caught attention across the globe, and at the first of his NYC shows inspired a blanket of glowing iPhones to rise straight into the air.
Easily one of the best-received moments of the evening, what “No Diggity” proves is that Faker is highly capable of mounting scores of success — but it requires his own credit. And even though tracks like “1998” and “Cigarettes and Loneliness” have what it takes, that indescribable X-factor remains the only hurdle blocking his path.
A quick callback from the audience produced an encore of four more songs, including the single, “Gold,” that’s earned Faker a broader reach since appearing in a recent Apple laptop commercial. “Dead Body” had him playing rhythm guitar, recalling a Continuum-era John Mayer. Before ending the show with “Talk Is Cheap,” Faker asked the Hell’s Kitchen crowd, “Hey, Brooklyn, do you know the words? Why don’t you help me out?”
Throughout the performance, his slight Australian accent would peep through the cracks, adding another charming characteristic to his already endearing ensemble. The crowd sang along to “Talk Is Cheap,” and before exiting the stage Faker grasped together a pair of prayer-hands and directed them out to the people who encourage him the most.
The sold-out status of Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s concerts only confirms his position as a true rising contender in his field. A packed run spread out over three sets at Terminal 5 in a single week doesn’t typically occur for the trendy and hollow.
Chet Faker plays Terminal 5 April 7 and April 8. While both shows are currently sold out, tickets are available on secondary markets.