Live Review: Eric Nam – The Triffid, Brisbane (08.03.19)

After scoring himself the mantle of the best-selling American tour by a solo K-Pop artist EVER, Korean-American pop singer-songwriter Eric Nam has brought his world tour to our Aussie shores for three epic shows, starting at Brisbane’s Triffid on Friday night. 

The line of excited music fans stretched all the way down Stratton Street before doors opened. The converted commercial hangar that is the Triffid is usually home to touring rock and roll and indie darlings, but this week it saw an eclectic crowd filing patiently and respectfully in for something quite different to its usual fare.

At 8:55 support act Lakyn hit the stage. Backlit in blue and purple, with only himself, a Fender Stratocaster, a sample pad and effects board, the New Zealand-born soloist captured hearts instantly with his spacey, reverb-laden brooding hip hop. Each guitar solo and breakdown draw a cheer from the gathered audience, and his cover of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” promptly won over the parents in the crowd.

If there’s one thing you can rely on at a K-Pop show, it’s punctuality. At 9:45 sharp, the energy level shot through the roof as Eric Nam hit the stage, dressed in torn jeans and a french-tucked oversized white button-up, and flanked by four dancers for an explosive entrance with his 2018 track “Honestly”.

Known for so much more than his obvious vocal prowess, Eric Nam has an incredibly natural and charismatic stage presence. Far from being one of those performers who only communicates through their music, his experience presenting and interviewing makes his moments in between songs just as entertaining as the songwriting.

“It’s been a while since I did a tour in English speaking countries,” he said early on in his set. “I’m trying to keep it together. Last time I did one of these tours it turned into a Ted talk.”

Part crooner and part pop prince, the setlist moved naturally from party jams into a slow moody section to showcase Eric’s versatility as a dancer and agility as a vocalist, before kicking back into high gear. Performing to pre-recorded backing tracks and with only one voice to be mixed, the sound was on point – every note and every word rang out clearly audible in the domed room, and Eric’s phenomenal sense of pitch let him down only once, when reaching for a particularly high belted note at the end of the show after singing at full energy for over an hour. Don’t worry Eric, we barely even noticed.

It must be an incredible feeling to stand on a stage in a foreign country and have a room full of strangers sing your lyrics back to you, but that’s exactly what Eric Nam got at this show – especially in his more recent tracks from his 2018 Honesty record. “This Is Not A Love Song” was a standout moment met with a chorus of voices from the crowd, and “Hold Me” even saw a nine-person swaying hug-chain start up toward the centre-back of the room.

My favourite part of the show was easily the hype section that followed the slower tunes. Eric smashed out summer anthem “Float”, 2017 collaborative track  with Arty “Idea of You” and 2016’s Timbaland joint effort “Body” consecutively without looking remotely fatigued – despite the latter song’s choreography featuring a series of body rolls which he insists are “enough body rolling to last me ’til next week”.

After a brief break following his 2016 track “Into You” (we all know “the last song” doesn’t ever REALLY mean the last song in this day and age), Eric Nam hit the stage one more time to share a beer with his Brisbane fans, insisting that the younger fans ‘don’t drink ’til you’re legal. I’m Your Asian Dad’. One enthusiastic heckler even insisted he try the time honoured (and questionable) Aussie tradition of the “Shoey”, where one drinks alcohol from ones shoe.

‘That’s gross.” Eric responded without hesitation. “That’s just unsanitary.” We don’t blame you at all, Eric.

With one more rendition of “Honestly” the night drew to a close – though the lucky VIP members still had a meet and greet with the man himself to go.

It’s been four and a half years since Eric’s first Brisbane show, and we’re hoping it won’t be quite so long before he returns to our shores – And we’re also so glad he finally got to see a koala at Australia Zoo!

Photos: Erin Smith