Live Review: Eric Nam – 170 Russell (11.03.19)

I am known to be excessive with my words; I am, more often, gratuitously optimistic. However, with all sense of seriousness, the joy felt as I left 170 Russell late on Monday night was nothing but wholly and unscrupulously immense.

More than music, I felt as if I had shared an experience, witnessing a true performance. Indeed, Eric Nam’s Melbourne show at the iconic Melbourne venue was one of the better concerts I have been to in a long time.

Not long after 7:30pm, fans of the Korean-American crooner filed into the venue formerly known as Billboard; being the only 18+ event of the Australian leg of the tour, this further proved the popular yet misleading trope (that K-Pop fans equate to screaming pre-teens) entirely incorrect. Granted, while there is nothing wrong with young, overzealous fans, it must be noted that the audience was wildly diverse; the show had not even began, and yet it was clear to see the magic found in music that continues to transcend language, culture, and age.

Indeed, the venue was smaller than other venues. But that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. Rather, it was actually some of the most fun I have had in weeks, surrounded by strangers, all for the same, singular purpose. I felt like I was at a party, having drinks with good friends. The atmosphere was light, joyous, infectiously and impossibly happy.

Before too long, support-act Lakyn perfectly graced the stage in a performance which could only be definitively explained by the word elegant. His solo stage was intricate, soulful, and perceptively intimate. Lakyn set the mood for the rest of the night with artistic finesse; swimming, gliding vocals, interjected gracefully with effortlessly flowing, and yet also distorted guitar riffs and artful electronic beats. His undoubtable musical ability was only matched by his lyrical prowess – who else could beautifully serenade a room full of people with a lyric that talks about eating ramen?

New fans – me included – were treated to a few unreleased tracks, before he closed out his all-too-short set with a magical rendition of ‘Like a Prayer’; the whole room was in love, swaying and singing along to the familiar tune. In the brief period between Lakyn leaving the stage, and the lights dimming before Eric’s performance, I could not stop humming along to all of these new songs I had just been exposed to – he was perfection (and all that I listened to on the way home).

Punctual, as expected, Eric soon kicked off the show with a bright performance of one of my own personal favourite songs – the up-beat, latin-inspired 2018 track, ‘Potion’. As if it was planned, fans sang in time and belted out the “ooohh”-filled chorus with impeccable precision; the audience was suitably hyped-up, and fortunately so considering the rest of the impactful, high-octane three-song introduction.

Other stand-out performances of the night included acoustic hits ‘This Is Not A Love Song’ and ‘I Don’t Miss You’. The ever-beautiful ballad ‘Hold Me’, a testament to his enduring fans, had a people tearing up across the floor as we all swayed in unison, lights in the air.

These slower, more emotional performance were interjected with electric-pop numbers like ‘Don’t Call Me’, ‘Touch My Body’, and the smash-hit Hotel Transylvania feature, ‘Float’. Indeed, despite his own self-admission that he was never really all that great at choreography, he tore up the stage with great aplomb in collaboration with four other dancers.

Performance after performance, Eric never showed any signs of fatigue. Indeed, watching him on stage, I recalled our interview together where he discussed the realisation and impact of fans paying money and spending their time to hang out with him:

“They could be doing anything, anywhere, watching any other movie or show, or whatever, but they’re choosing, they’re opting to spend that time, watching me perform. Every time I perform I am so thankful and blown away by that understanding, and I think that really drives me to put on a a great show every night. Every show, itself, is very, very rewarding.”

Being there in person and seeing it for myself it became abundantly clear that he wholeheartedly loved being there, performing for his fans. With so much unrelenting passion, every song in his 1.5 hour set was as strong as the last.

As the show came to a close, Eric started taking suggestions form the floor. Like this, he sang acapella snippets of his fan-favourite hits; without the music, you could hear his robust vocals clearly. Each snippet was something special, and fans cheered in equal measure as he rounded out verses and choruses of their requests with artistic flourishes and whimsical cheekiness.

As concerts go, they are never complete without an encore – in any case, we were never going to let him go without performing ‘Honestly’, honestly.

Coming back to an almost riotous applause, Eric danced onto the stage as the first bars of the song rang throughout the venue. So full of energy, his voice remained steady despite the vocal variation present throughout the song; the ‘woo-hoo’ refrain in the chorus almost acted like encouragement to dance, NamNation jumping up and down to the mellow, yet driving beat of the song.

Almost shockingly, as soon as ‘Honestly’ finished, the first few blasts of BTS’IDOL’ quickly kicked in; flanked by his four handsome back-up dancers, the quintet danced as Eric sung the lyrics to the global pop hit. The cover was spectacular, with almost the whole audience knowing the words to the song; the energy within the room was palpable, strong, and so infectious that you could not help but smile out of ecstatic festivity. Moreover, the cover further proved that he could, indeed, dance. And sing. And perform.

Oh boy, Eric Nam can really perform.

A little short of breath due to the rigorous choreography, Eric thusly announced that he had been a little “under-the-weather” during the first few songs – a surprise to me as it was for everyone else. No one could have picked it; Eric was at the top of his game, and no one within the venue could get enough.

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end – sharing a few beers around, Eric bowed to the audience before leaving the stage for the second time that night. And as the final night of the Australian tour came to a close, I could only hope that we would see Eric Nam return to Australian shores again soon.